After a year that saw the parade canceled due to the pandemic, the Greater Bangor Veterans Day parade returned on Thursday with cheers from the crowd.

Veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq marched down Wilson Street in Brewer, across the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge and through downtown Bangor, proudly bearing flags, insignia and walking sticks crafted by the Cole Land Transportation Museum.

A man salutes as a procession of veterans passes him on the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge in Brewer during the Bangor – Brewer Veteran’s Day Parade, Nov. 11, 2021. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The museum also brought out its giant bell, which rang in remembrance of veterans killed in World War II, and members of the Maine Air National Guard’s 101st Air Refueling Wing, based in Bangor, also marched.

Hundreds of spectators at the parade offered thanks to the veterans gathered. Diane Nute of Hampden, who was in attendance with her three grandchildren, Iris, Owen and Charlotte, said she regularly came out to parades in other years to show her gratitude to local veterans and some of her family members

“I can’t imagine going over there, to a war zone, not knowing what I might be getting into,” she said. “The support from their families and communities is what gets them through, I think, which is why it’s really important that we come out to things like this.”

Brewer Veteran’s Day Parade-goers line the sidewalks just over the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge in Brewer as the procession approaches, Nov. 11, 2021. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Students in junior ROTC battalions in Bangor, Brewer and Hermon also marched in the parade, alongside representatives from local American Legion and VFW chapters, and other veteran groups. Buses and other vehicles carried some older veterans unable to walk the parade route.

Maine has one of the highest rates of military service in the country, with veterans making up 9.6 percent of the state’s population, according to census data — the third highest in the country, only exceeded by Montana and Alaska. There are an estimated 104,000 veterans currently living in Maine, the Housing Assistance Council says.

Thursday’s Veterans Day parade was the first parade to happen in Bangor since the Festival of Lights parade in December 2019.

Bangor High School JROTC organizes both the Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades, members from which were on hand to help guide the parade. Melissa Brown, battalion commander and a senior at Bangor High School, said it was an emotional day for all of them.

Clockwise, from left: A man wearing a Korean War veteran hat passes by members of the public watching the Bangor – Brewer Veterans Day parade; A man wearing a hat indicating that he is a World War II veteran travels across the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge in Brewer; A man in a kilt curtsies to the crowd lining the streets in downtown Bangor during the Bangor – Brewer Veterans Day Parade. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

“With COVID, we just couldn’t do it, so to be able to have people come out and recognize us as a battalion and all the veterans in our community is really special,” she said. “Bangor is a great community for veterans, so it’s an amazing feeling to see the smiles on people’s faces.”

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.