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Veterans of past and future wars rededicate Armistice Bridge

End of World War I honored alongside 20th anniversary of Game Loft
By Ethan Andrews | Apr 15, 2018
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Members of the Game Loft after-school program lend a historical note to the April 14 rededication of Armistice Bridge in Belfast with flags representing the major world powers before World War I.

Belfast — What do the end of World War I and the 20th anniversary of a Belfast after-school program based around non-electronic games have in common?

Ray Estabrook, a co-founder the Game Loft, posed that rhetorical question to a group gathered at the east end of the footbridge Saturday morning for a joint event recognizing the two apparently unrelated events. He answered it starting with the 55 names on a bronze plaque installed on the bridge in memory of soldiers from Waldo County who were killed in World War I.

"They were all young men and women, who, one assumes, when they left their homes here in Waldo County to go and fight to make the world safe for democracy, assumed that maybe they might come back," he said.

If they had, Estabrook said, they would have been in the position of the Randall-Collins VFW Post 3108 members in attendance Saturday — people, he said, "who lived to help us remember."

He ended with the teens of the Game Loft. On Saturday, nine members with flags representing the great world powers in the decades before World War I — Austria-Hungary, France, the U.S. and U.K., Imperial Japan, China — stood alongside the VFW members bearing the traditional U.S. and POW/MIA flags.

"I think they, too, may be called upon to serve our nation in a time of trial," Estabrook said. Through historical role-playing games, he said, they had experienced "how surprising history can be. How unexpected the call to arms can be, and how varied are the reasons that young men, and now young women, serve and fight in wars."

Armistice Bridge, known as the footbridge, is a reconstruction of the former Route 1 crossing over the Passagassawakeag River. Originally named Veterans Memorial Bridge when it was dedicated in 1921, the name was moved to a larger bridge built in the 1960s when Route 1 was bypassed around the city. After falling into disrepair, the old bridge was reconstructed in the early 2000s and opened in 2006. It was christened Armistice Bridge in 2010 at the initiative of a citizens' group that raised money for a replica of the original memorial plaque.

On Saturday, Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Waldo, and Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, read remarks commending the sacrifices of veterans. Both representatives were candidates for their current seats when they attended the Armistice Bridge dedication in 2010.

Herbig, who is running for Senate District 11, laid a wreath below the memorial plaque, VFW members gave a 21-gun salute and a trumpeter played "Taps." Herbig and Thibodeau presented Ray and Patricia Estabrook with a legislative sentiment recognizing the Game Loft on its 20th anniversary.

Legislative candidates Jayne Giles (Republican, for  Senate District 11), Caitlin Hills and Jan Dodge (Democrats, for House District 97) attended the ceremony.

After the ceremony, Game Loft members went to First Baptist Church to practice Pax Britannica, a historical role-playing game, Ray Estabrook said, in which players represented European and Asian countries trying to maintain the 100-year peace for which the game is named.

"The country that screws up and starts World War I suffers a large penalty," he said.

Veterans from Randall Collins VFW Post 3108 lead a procession onto Armistice Bridge April 14. (Photo by: Tom Foster)
Game Loft members march onto Armistice Bridge April 14 bearing flags of the great world powers in 1880, during the Pax Britannica that preceded World War I. (Photo by: Tom Foster)
Maine Senate President Michael Thibodeau speaks in support of veterans April 14 at the rededication of Armistice Bridge in Belfast. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Game Loft co-founder Ray Estabrook speaks at the April 14 rededication of Armistice Bridge in Belfast. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Rep. Erin Herbig and Sen. Michael Thibodeau present Game Loft co-founders Patricia and Ray Estabrook with a legislative sentiment recognizing the after-school program, which turns 20 this year. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Veterans fire a 21-gun salute at the April 14 rededication of Armistice Bridge in Belfast. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Veterans from Randall Collins VFW Post 3108 salute during a rendition of "Taps" at the April 14 rededication of Armistice Bridge in Belfast. (Photo by: Ethan Andrews)
Jim Roberts Jr., Randall Collins VFW Post 3108 commander holds a wreath while Rep. Erin Herbig speaks at the April 14 rededication of Armistice Bridge in Belfast. (Photo by: Tom Foster)
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