Perhaps the once-fallen flagpole that was erected behind the Tri-City Elks in Warwick is living proof that Lodge 14’s membership will never forget the nation’s veterans.
The flagpole that carried old glory and MIA-POW flag once stood in front of Lodge 14 at 1915 West Shore Road, but during Hurricane Sandy of 2012 broke off from its concrete base and went toppling to the ground.
But its remains, which were patched up and erected in front of Lodge 14 back then, were moved last week to what the Elks call Rossi Park that overlooks Tri-City’s self-named Golden Pond.
On Friday, the flagpole was officially dedicated to the men and women from the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol.
It was all part of the Tri-City Elks’ second annual Veterans Appreciation Day that included two separate dinners, two special flag pole dedication ceremonies and salutes that Exalted Ruler Mark Eaton said is part of Lodge 14’s creed: “The Elks never forget a Vet!”
Eaton said the event was also held “to honor all those troops that served in World War II and D-Day on June 6, 1944.” The event was free and sponsored by the Elks National Foundation.
Eaton and Tri-City officials rolled out the welcome mat for the men and women from the Veterans Home in Bristol. A volunteer staff of 25 did everything from helping vets off the bus to serving them lunch. The vets were also treated to music by a special military band.
“This event gave the vets an opportunity to talk to some young military and share stories and experiences,” Eaton said. “It was really special when they learned the flag pole was gong to be dedicated in their honor.”
Several hours later nearly 200 people took part in Tri-City’s second annual Veterans Appreciation Day, which included a dinner, music and flag raising ceremony.
But perhaps Whiskey Road – a local band featuring Tim Yuettner on bass and vocals, Jon Corvi on bass, Jason D’Aguanno on sax and David Goldman on drums – may have best set the tone for what current military called “an extraordinary evening.”
Around 6 p.m., Yuettner flipped a switch and suddenly the sounds of the “Star Spangled Banner” echoed through Lodge 14’s nearly full and recently remodeled downstairs dining room.
After which Eaton asked Reginald A. Centracchio, retired Adjutant General of Rhode Island, to lead the group in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
“We were thrilled with the turnout,” Eaton said. “What a great collection of our troops; World War II, Korean, Vietnam and Gulf War veterans. We also had members and non-members – more than two-dozen people – step forward because they wanted to honor our veterans.”
The night got more impressive when Eaton requested all attendees join outside for a flag pole dedication and flag raising.
U.S. Army soldiers Adam Hudgins, Brendon Howland, Christopher Murdock, Jarred Grindstaff, Ryan Nyhus and Army Staff Sergeant Rambo Tran created goose bumps during their flag unfolding and flag raising sing.
The new flagpole was a gift to Lodge 14 from Dr. Patrick T. Conley and his wife Gail and once sat on the couple’s property on Allens Avenue in Providence. It was officially dedicated in honor of all past and present veterans.
“This event was heart-warming and very patriotic,” said Centracchio, who told an attentive audience that he is also an Elk and just how important D-Day is for our country. “Especially when we had young soldiers there participating and listening to stories of older vets and families who had served in previous wars. Some of those stories were never told before and even family members were amazed to hear them.”
Centracchio, who belongs to the Coventry-West Greenwich Elks lodge, continued, “I was honored to be part of the ceremony and asked to participate. God Bless our soldiers.”
To which Richard N. St. Louis, commander of the Northern RI Chapter 3 CID 259 of Korean War Veterans, added, “It was an honor for our chapter to be part of the celebration to remember and celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day. The raising of the flag and General Centracchio’s speech was most impressive; a great night for all veterans and current military, as well.”