ELLSWORTH – After their bus broke down on the way to Maine, members of oldest active-duty unit in the United States Army were up for another early morning Saturday.
But what waited for them on their first stop in Maine was well worth the trip.
“The nation’s security has always relied on veterans and relied on those who serve us today and we have to continually show that we appreciate them,” says Mike Edgecomb, State Captain of the Patriot Guard Riders.
An escort of fire engines and law enforcement led the way for members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment in Ellsworth Saturday morning.
“It’s wonderful to bring them up to Maine and show them great Maine hospitality,” says Edgecomb. “Maybe feed them a lobster or two and show them how much we appreciate our veterans.”
“We’re just glad to be here,” says Capt. Nathan Lease, Commander of the U.S. Army Drill Team. “Happy to be here, happy to be in Maine and we’re just excited to be a part of this organization’s history and do something to give back to them because they do so much for us.”
Wreaths Across America invited the members of the Old Guard to a tree-tagging event in Columbia Falls.
It was the group’s first ever trip to Maine, but not without a few bumps along the way up Friday night.
“We had a little bit of bus trouble,” says Maj. Eric Alexander, Regimental Operations Officer of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. “But that’s okay we got to spend a little extra time in Connecticut.”
Engine and tire troubles did not stop the regiment and others from reaching Washington County in the afternoon and remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“My maternal grandfather served in World War II in the Army and my paternal grandfather served in World War II in the Navy,” says Maj. Alexander. “They’re both passed so it’s a good way for me to remember them. “
“I lost my son, Specialist Dustin J. Harris in Iraq on April 6, 2006,” says Lorna Harris, a Gold Star Mother. “Something so tragic in my life, Wreaths Across America has brought so much beauty into mine.”
The Army’s official ceremonial unit was not without its own ceremony as well.
As a new “Old Guard Memorial Grove” was designated to the group on the tip land at the Wreaths Across America headquarters.
Following the special occasion, a special concert was held in the evening at the Balsam Valley Amphitheater, headlined by Kansas.
It also featured performances from several of the Old Guard’s units, including the U.S. Army Drill Team.
Some members have been practicing two years for this moment.
“It takes quite a bit of time, training and dedication to get the precision and timing,” says Capt. Nathan Lease.
The trip to Maine was a long time coming, but every bit as special as hoped for.