People lined West Shore Road with excited kids and well-behaved dogs to watch the Memorial Day Parade despite the gloomy skies yesterday morning.
Voice were excitedly raised and pictures were taken when a familiar face was spotted amongst those participating in the parade and children rushed to grab some of the lollipops and Starbursts thrown from the windows of vintage cars and towing trucks.
Bands from Toll Gate, Vets and Pilgrim High Schools, Gorton Junior High and Johnston High School accompanied the parade with patriotic music from the National Anthem to “God Bless America.”
Children jumped with glee to be walking in the parade for their Girl or Boy Scouts troop or the karate or dance school they are a part of. The parade ended with the Warwick Fire Department rolling through with their new trucks.
Veterans, politicians and organizers of the parade then gathered together in front of Veterans Memorial Park to speak on the behalf of those who have served in our armed forces.
The Vets band played the National Anthem before three uniformed veterans with American Legion William Shields Post 43 fired three volleys into the air. Children held their ears from the harsh sound but were enticed to watch the guns go off.
Mayor Scott Avedisian thanked all of the attending veterans for their service as well as all the good they do for their communities upon their return from active duty.
“Those who serve in our armed forces brighten our city and enliven our community on top of serving for our country to ensure our freedom,” he said.
He mentioned the Jewish War Veterans Memorial that has had names added to it in the past year and the “daunting image of gratitude” it presents to the American public. He then wished Warwick a happy and health holiday.
Providence Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Angel Taveras thanked parade marshal Marcia Beagan and Tony Rodrigues and all who organized the parade. Taveras then invoked Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, reminding viewers that to serve and die for one’s own country is “the last full measure of devotion.”
Council President Donna Travis then reminded everyone that although Memorial Day is to remember those fallen soldiers, to pray for those men and women who are serving our country today and asked all to bow their heads in remembrance of those fallen and pray for those still fighting.
“We are lucky to live in the greatest country in the world. God Bless America,” she said.
One hundred four-year-old World War II veteran Arthur “Jerry” Latham sat with his wife, Doris Latham, in front of the speakers. Latham served in Japan at the battle of Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Latham remembered, “I was just so happy when the war was over.”
Bill Byrnes also served in the South Pacific, in Borneo and New Guinea. While in the Navy Byrnes served on a PT boat, an eight-crew 80-foot attack boat that could go 55 knots. This year Byrnes rode something a little different. He rode in one of the cars driven by the Lion’s Club that only moved about 10 miles per hour for the parade this year.
The 88-year-old Byrnes said, “I try and participate every year. It is a great thing to participate in. There aren’t many left of us so I feel its my duty to represent the era. This is a great country and I am glad for all that I can do for it.”