For many who drive the Route 1 bridge connecting Wiscasset to Edgecomb, Stott Carleton is an icon. Proudly carrying an American flag that towers over his head, Carleton walks the bridge several times a week in honor of America and those who have served. On Oct. 10, Veterans Day eve, community members, in turn, gathered at the bridge to honor him.
“We just got a big group of people together, and we're going to have signs and flags and walk the bridge with him and just let him know how much we appreciate what he does,” said Helen Bryan, who organized the crowd. “And he would not want us to do that, but we feel like he needs to be recognized.”
Carleton, a decorated Vietnam veteran, walks the bridge in honor of his best friend, who died the last day of their tours. He also does it for the country he loves and the people who make America what it is.
Around 30 people came together to surprise Carleton before his last walk of the year. Family, friends and community members gathered on the Edgecomb side of the bridge to join him on his walk. When he arrived, the crowd cheered and waved American flags and banners to celebrate him.
Piper Carlton, one of Stott Carleton’s granddaughters, said he’s adventurous, fun and is a great grandfather to have. She came with her sister, Charley, and said they have fun walking with him wanted to join today to support him and honor Veteran’s Day. Dan Patrick lives in Edgecomb near Carleton and said he came to show his support because Carleton is important to the community. “He's just a very warm-hearted person. You know He's gone through a lot of adversity in his life, but he perseveres through …,” Patrick said.
Carleton said he began walking the bridge in 2019 thinking it would only be once. However, Friday’s walk marked his 410th trip across the Donald E. Davey Bridge.
“For the last 27 years, I thought, ‘I'm going to walk the bridge once, just at least once and carry the flag over and back.’ And then COVID hit, and the country was scared, and everybody was scared. But the truck drivers are still out there delivering groceries to the Hannaford, and it just seemed like the time to start.”
Now, Carleton walks the bridge three times a week with his dog, Skip. After hearing horn beeps of support and seeing the expressions on people's faces he is reminded why he lives in "the best country in the world” and wanted to keep going.
During Friday’s walk, the road resonated with car horns and shouts as drivers cheered Carleton and his supporters on. He said that’s a big reason he keeps doing it.
“People that … waved back and smiled and had this look on their face like, "Yeah, I do live in the best country in the world, don't I?" And there's a lot of veterans I need to thank for that, especially the ones who never came home,” he said.
Carleton usually stops walking around this time of year and picks back up in March. When that time comes, he said he hopes people will honk their horn and smile at him. He said he wants them to think how lucky they are to live in America, feel love and pride for it and remember the sacrifices that were made for freedom.
“If it's making some people feel better about living in this country, then it's all worth it,” he said. “You know I didn't start out to do that, but if it's doing that, then I'm going to do it as long as my back will let me.”