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In Brunswick-Topsham, the parade resumes and a veteran is honored - The Portland Press Herald

BRUNSWICK — It had been a whirlwind weekend for Richard “Archie” Pelley.

A decorated Vietnam veteran, Pelley had just returned from an Honor Flight Maine trip to visit the memorial monuments in Washington D.C. On Monday morning, the 91-year old former Coast Guard chief warrant officer was seated in a yellow Corvette convertible, serving as the grand marshal of the Brunswick-Topsham Memorial Day Parade.

“How was your trip to Washington, Archie?” someone shouted.

“Unbelievable, just unbelievable,” Pelley said, as the car came to a stop at the midpoint of the bridge connecting the two towns. “Every vet should get a chance to do it.”

Pelley took part in a brief observance on the bridge as part of the parade, one of many that took place Monday across Maine to remember and honor those who died while serving the United States in the military. After two years of being restricted to virtual events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mainers flocked to in-person remembrances, buoyed by clear skies and summer-like temperatures.

Here, observers lined the parade route to watch the classic cars, marching bands, decorated bikes, veterans’ groups and other participants who traveled from Topsham’s Town Hall down Route 201 across the Androscoggin River to Brunswick’s broad Maine Street. It ended with more observances on Brunswick’s Mall.

Observers sat on lawn chairs and blankets or stood on sidewalks. Some waved small American flags passed out by Cub Scouts. One woman wore a T-shirt with an American flag that read: “The home of the free because of the brave.”

Among those watching was Tyler Nadeau of Lewiston.

His grandfather, Roger Nadeau, served in Vietnam in the Army. He, too, had just returned from the Washington honor flight, where he met Pelley and the two men became friends. Scrolling through his smartphone, the younger Nadeau showed images of his grandfather and Pelley, seated in front of the black granite wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“He’s a hell of a man, that Archie,” Nadeau said as he looked at the photos. “He and my grandfather served 20 miles from each other in Vietnam. They had never met.”

Pelley had served 28 years in the Coast Guard. He performed two tours of duty in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star. He was nominated to be grand marshal by member of the parade’s organizing committee and as the procession reached the bridge, Pelley stepped out of the car to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony.

The parade grew quiet, as Mark Rockwood, pastor of the Berean Baptist Church, offered a prayer to God to honor those who serve.

“We thank you for the men and women who put on the uniform every day,” he said.

As he spoke, a large American flag – lowered to half-staff at the direction of President Biden – fluttered atop the massive Cabot Mill, which towers over the riverbank.

When Rockwood finished, Pelley walked to the railing of the Frank J. Wood bridge and dropped the wreath into the swift-moving river below. A Navy honor guard then fired three rounds from its rifles as observers bowed their heads or saluted. A trumpeter ended the ceremony with taps.

Parades and observances were also held in several southern Maine communities, including Portland, South Portland, Westbrook, Scarborough, Falmouth, Cumberland and Cape Elizabeth.

Gov. Janet Mills marched in the Sanford parade and delivered remarks at the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Springvale.

“As the daughter, the niece, and the sister of veterans,” the governor said in a statement, “I always mark Memorial Day with gratitude and grief. Gratitude that my loved ones came home from conflicts around the world and grief for the Maine servicemen and women we’ve lost.”

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, invoked the words of Maine Civil War hero Gen. Joshua Chamberlain before attending a ceremony at Lewiston-Auburn’s Veterans Memorial Park.

King said: “In dedicating a memorial to Maine men who lost their lives, Chamberlain said: ‘This is the great reward of service. To live, far out and on, in the life of others.'”

“Today, it is our privilege and obligation to make good on Chamberlain’s promise – to hold the memories of our lost heroes close, and to ensure that they continue to live on in the hearts and minds of all future Americans.”


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