Rockland’s 2023 Veteran’s Day ceremony reflects on family connections, invisible wounds and respect

Sun, 11/12/2023 - 12:00pm

    ROCKLAND — American Legion Post 1 held its annual Veterans Day ceremony Saturday, Nov. 12, 2023 in front of the Winslow-Holbrook memorial in Downtown Rockland.

    For some, every day is Veteran’s Day, not just November 11. And as the American Legion continues its mission, now in its second year, to locate and help the vets who remain haunted by the terrors of war, the Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023 ceremony aimed to also remind soldiers of how proud of them the country remains, the value of their efforts, and the connections they have to the world around them. This year’s speakers repeated a common theme in regards to family and community, and the invisible wounds that do not heal.

    Roger Wardman’s cousin Cindy Young said goodbye to her husband, Bill, and her son, Aaron, on November 10, 2023. The two were killed in the Lewiston mass shooting on Oct. 25, 2023. Bill was a United States Air Force veteran, and Aaron, 14, was likely to follow suit, according to Wardman.

    “It is because of men like Bill, being a veteran, and the very probability that Aaron would have done that – to follow in his father’s steps – I dedicate the following poem to Bill and Aaron Young,” said Wardman.

    The poem, “Gratitude,” by an unknown author, begins:

    “Young and old, brave and bold, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers. We thank our soldiers.”

    Those fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers are the very reason why former Rockland poet laureate Carol Bachofner not only attends each year’s Rockland Veteran’s Day ceremony, but also writes a new poem every year and presents it for the audience.

    Bachofner, through her extensive military family, considers herself a part of multiple services. Her family’s military career begins with a Revolutionary ancestor, Elijah Dunbar, who served in the Continental Army and spied on the British. Her grandfather was born in Lewiston and served in WWI. Bachofner’s father was a POW wounded vet of WWII, Battle of the Bulge. And now, the ashes of her brother, who passed away a month ago, are in an urn in the port of Jacksonville awaiting burial at sea. Bachofner herself was a military wife for ten years as part of the U.S. Air Force.

    Bachofner’s poem begins:

    “I dreamed you in your chair watching the ballgame. I dreamed you at the table over hot dogs and beans. I dreamed you throwing shoes out back with Uncle Joe. I dreamed you dancing with a beautiful woman to music on the radio. I wondered what all the soldiers dream after all of the smoke and fire is done. I wanted to save you from yourself, from the dreams that you had that exploded every night like the shrapnel in your leg…..

    “You say don’t think about such things. Let me dream this for you. Let me suffer for you….”

    Many veterans are succumbing to the outwardly invisible wounds of war, Sulin.

    “[Those invisible wounds] are no less devastating and no less real than the visible wounds suffered from bullets and chunks of metal,” said Sulin.

    This suffering by “some who gave all and all who gave some” is a cause of endless frustration for Sulin. At the national level, he reminds audience members that it is the soldiers who have suffered so that Americans can have their freedoms, according to Sulin. The most commonly mentioned freedom “is often quoted, but not as equally understood as it should be,” he said.

    The Freedom of Speech.

    The freedom to state ideas, as extreme as they may be in some cases, “was purchased by veterans and continue to be protected by veterans,” said Sulin. “As a citizen and as a veteran, I would dearly love to see more civility in politics as a sign of respect to those veterans who, although they may not agree with what you say, they have supported your right to have your say.”

    But at the local level, Sulin chokes with a different emotion as he points to the Rockland attendees who returned from national service and switched uniforms in order to continue serving at the community level as firefighters, EMS, and police (two on-duty officers attended the ceremony).

    “You, our younger generation, have taken the term ‘service’ to an even higher level,” he said. “The city of Rockland, and our nation as a whole, are ever so grateful to you all.”

    County Commissioner Ed Glaser and Council member-elect Nate Davis also attended the ceremony.


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