As Memorial Day weekend is upon us, it’s important to reflect on the true meaning of the day and what is being done to support those who put their lives on the line. It’s easy to take the weekend for granted as just an additional day off, but we must not lose sight of the heroes among us.
I come from an extended military family. Cousins, uncles, grandfathers, you name it, I have a family member who has served in various branches of the Armed Forces in various wars and conflicts. It makes me proud that they have chosen this particular way of serving our country.
While we can always do better in society on this front, there is good work taking place in our community to support our veterans.
For instance, we have some exciting news in Old Orchard Beach. Veterans will now be able to park for free, with their veterans plates clearly displayed, in any town lot or space with a parking meter on Memorial Day itself.
Memorial Day weekend is usually the official start to the summer tourism season, so naturally it’s a time to put up the parking meters. The least we could do on the day itself is to let veterans park for free. After all, the parade and the ceremonies are for them and honoring the memory of their fallen comrades.
Richard Litwin of the OOB Legion came to me with the concern about how to encourage more veterans to participate in or watch the parade. We brainstormed some possibilities regarding parking. I thought this might be a great way to make it easy for veterans to attend.
After I brought this forward to Town Manager Larry Meade and Police Chief Dana Kelley, they jumped at the chance to help. These two individuals are so dedicated to our community. Their passion shines through with everything they do. I really appreciate their efforts in approving this request and taking a leadership role in making this happen.
This is a simple and small change that will hopefully have a big impact.
Last year, I started a grant program targeted at veterans most in need. The Support Our Heroes Grant is designed to help veterans without a permanent address and in area transitional housing get back on their feet. Specifically, the grant provides this group of Veterans with an ability to take free classes with OOB/Saco Adult Education in essential job training skills to gain employment opportunities. We were able to raise $1,500 for this grant. The folks at the transitional housing programs and the adult ed program are working together to find ways of getting the vets to take full advantage of this opportunity including organizing a computer class just for them. One veteran homeless is one far too many and this is just one small step in trying to lift up those who have done so much for this country.
On Memorial Day, there will be two area parades. The Biddeford/Saco parade and the Old Orchard Beach parade. The Biddeford/Saco event will begin at 10 a.m. in Saco at Eastman Park for an opening ceremony. It will then travel through Main Street, headed to Veterans Memorial Park in Biddeford. The Old Orchard Beach parade begins at 1 p.m. at the intersection of E. Emerson Cummings Boulevard and Saco Avenue, travels down Saco Avenue, down Old Orchard Street and turns right onto First Street and spilling out into Memorial Park.
After the parade in Old Orchard Beach there will be a Fallen Warriors ceremony. The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1044 and the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America will conduct a Fallen Warrior Ceremony in memory of our military men and women from Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach who have paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as those who still have not returned home and are either POW/MIAs. It will be held in Veterans Memorial Park from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.
It’s vital that the next generation be part of the parades and ceremonies. We must instill in the next generation the concept of recognizing the heroes among us who stepped up and fought for the freedoms we enjoy. So bring the kids, bring your friends and family and I hope to see you this Memorial Day.
For those that served or are serving, thank you for your service. We don’t say that enough.
Justin Chenette is serving his first term as the youngest senator in the Maine Senate representing Saco, Old Orchard Beach, Hollis, Limington and Buxton. He previously served two terms in the Maine House of Representatives. Outside the Legislature, he is the owner of Chenette Media LLC, a marketing & public relations firm, works as the marketing coordinator of Saco Sport & Fitness, and is the president of Saco MainStreet. Sign up for legislative updates at www.justinchenette.com or follow updates at www.Facebook/JustinChenette.
Beyond the Headlines
Weekly Column featured in The Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier Newspaper by Rep. Justin Chenette of Saco