Oxford American Legion hosts Memorial Day ceremony

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Catrina Wilson, a student at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, sang several patriotic songs at the Oxford Memorial Day service hosted by the Anderson Staples Post 112 on Monday. Pictured with Wilson are, from left, Second Vice Deb Lyons, Finance Officer Howie Munday, State Sen. Jim Hamper and Town Manager Butch Asselin. (Leslie H. Dixon, Advertiser Democrat)

OXFORD — Remember the sacrifices.

Scores of Oxford residents and friends ranging in age from 2 to their 90s gathered Monday at the Anderson Staples Post 112 American Legion on King Street for a 90-minute ceremony that underscored service, sacrifice, teamwork, community and history.

The ceremony, hosted by master of ceremonies First Vice Joseph Casalinova, was dedicated to the memory of Navy veteran Ed Lyons, past commander and recently elected commander in absentia for 2018 in recognition of the Anderson Staples Post 112 100th anniversary. Lyons died April 17.

“He served with distinction and honor, and helped keep the voices alive for our current and future vets,” Cmdr. Rick Nugent said.

Lyons, along with the late Marine Sgt. and former state Legislator Ted Heidrich, founder of the Legion’s Summer Concert Series, will have memorials dedicated to them later this summer.

In a surprise move, the application of Navy Capt. John Crompton for membership into the Anderson Staples Post 112 American Legion was accepted by a vote of its members Monday, more than 40 years after Crompton first applied.

Crompton, who served on eight ships in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, spoke of his attempt to gain membership into the American Legion 40 years ago only to have a bureaucratic mistake in Washington send him to the wrong post. Discouraged, he dug in and let the local membership possibility wane until Monday, when he was voted into membership.

He also spoke of teamwork and the support from loved ones at home who kept him going throughout his 32 years of active service.

Town Manager Butch Asselin, the special guest speaker, talked about community traditions and the desire to bring back some of them including Field Days. This  summer, the Legion will also host the first annual Historic Rally Conference, which will be a gathering of historic societies throughout Oxford County; a tour of the town’s historic buildings in Oxford Village and a ghost history event.

Traditions, said Asselin, are what brought the community to where it is today.

“It’s important the children learn the values we have and bring them to their own children,” Asselin said.

State Sen. James Hamper spoke about the historic 100th anniversary celebration of the American Legion and the history behind several well-known Memorial Day speeches, such as the poem “In Flanders Field.”

“Perhaps someday in the future, war will only be a memory,” Hamper said.

State Rep. Kathleen Dillingham spoke about the sacrifices of veterans saying, “It’s astonishing to hear what vets who have served are willing to give up … everything.”

Otisfield veteran Brian Harris spoke of the Honor Flight program and urged those veterans who have not been able to participate to do so. Honor Flight Maine allows local veterans to fly free of charge to Washington, D.C., to visit memorials and Arlington National Cemetery in Virginaia.

The crowd heard Second Vice Deb Lyons read General Logan’s Orders No.11, Washington, D.C.; Sons of the American Legion Commander Brian O’Donnell recite the Gettysburg Address; and Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School student Catrina Wilson sing several patriotic songs.

As the service concluded, the faint sounds of the Congregational Church bells could be heard ringing for a minute followed by the playing of taps and the closing prayer by Deacon Lois Whitham.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net