The fog slowly lifted from Camden Harbor on Memorial Day, as citizens began gathering at the Public Landing to honor those who served their country and to offer a prayer in their memory.

The observance, organized by the American Legion Post 30, was the first of series of such events that took place all day in Camden, Lincolnville and Rockland for some of the participants, including those in the Color Guard, Camden Hills Regional High School Marching Band, and veterans.

At the harbor, Pastor Timothy Gillan, of the Cornerstone Baptist Church, said: “Memorial Day is not just a holiday. It is a time for us to remember, a time for us to honor.”

Following the ceremony, in which a wreath was tossed into the harbor in memory of fallen service men and women, Camden’s Memorial Day parade began at the intersection of John Street and continued down Elm and Main streets, to the library, and up to Mountain View Cemetery, where speeches were delivered and a flag folding ceremony took place. The morning got warmer as the sun burned through the clouds, and by the time the town marched behind the parade to the cemetery, it was shade that many sought beneath the old leafy trees.

Camden-Rockport Middle School eighth grade Hannah Holte said to those who congregated there that Memorial Day is a time for remembering. Her speech follows.

 

Memorial Day

By Hannah Holte

Memorial Day: a time for barbecues, picnics, and time with friends. The time of year that marks the beginning of spring, and also a day off of school. These are the aspects of Memorial Day that I, and many others, look forward to every year. However, I found myself puzzled when I turned on the news and witnessed thousands of people mourning. Whether it be in New York, Chicago, or Las Angeles, the people gathered together were not celebrating, but grieving. Shocked, I wondered what could have caused these people so much pain. I was soon informed that these thousands of people were gathered together to remember and acknowledge the lives and deaths of all the many men and women who sacrificed themselves for the freedom of America.

I was left dumbfounded at this new knowledge. Was I celebrating this American holiday incorrectly my whole life? Was I being disrespectful to the thousands of mourners gathered throughout my nation, all connected through the pain of losing loved ones and grieving together? Finally, I realized. There is no wrong way to celebrate, or rather, acknowledge this holiday.

Whether holding moments of silence in Times Square or barbecuing with friends on a crisp, spring day, these two ways of acknowledging Memorial Day are very similar. One honors and remembers the soldiers who sacrificed everything, and are continuing to sacrifice everything, for the sake of their fellow countrymen back home. The other exercises the rights that our soldiers so desperately and valiantly fought, and continue to fight for. On Memorial Day, by Americans gathering together to be with friends and family is what our veterans fought for, and what soldiers continue to do into this century. Freedom of press, religion, speech, every right is represented by the picnics and social gatherings on Memorial Day. America, and the pure freedom it stands for was created hundreds of years ago from the oppression of another nation. Our forefathers constructed the Constitution, but it took dedication and bravery beyond words to stand up for these rights granted to us as American citizens. Exercising so many of these rights on a day of remembrance seems fitting, and is doing justice to the soldiers who gave up their lives for the sake of their neighbors back home.

 

Memorial Day is not only a holiday of remembrance for those who have been martyrs to the cause of America. It is also to acknowledge and appreciate veterans who have come home, soldiers missing in action, prisoners of war, and also the ones who fight for their country and rights thousands of miles away from home. Our duty as American citizens is to give thanks for the fact that we have the honor to call ourselves citizens. Whether it be giving speeches, writing poems, singing songs, praying, holding family gatherings, or creating new memories on a fine spring day, we are all giving thanks to the ones who gave up everything to keep our home peaceful and free.

Memorial Day is also a time of not forgetting. It is a day when soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq could think of their countrymen back home and say, “We are being remembered.” Our soldiers deserve and need the support of the ones they are fighting for. Our veterans need to know that all their experiences and sacrifices have benefited, and will forever benefit the well-being of this great nation. The soldiers who are prisoners of war and missing in action need to be able to think back to the country they are suffering for and feel pride in its citizens. They need to be able to feel appreciated and remembered, or else we as Americans are not honoring them.

It is up to the people back home to exercise the rights we have been privileged enough to be granted. It is up to us to make Memorial Day a time for the gratitude our soldiers deserve. In the poem, “We Must Remember” it reads, “For if there is to be peace on earth/ where all men and women are free/ it must begin with each and all of us/ let it begin with you and me.” Honestly, I couldn’t agree more.