A good turnout gathered atop fallen leaves at the Warwick Veterans Memorial Park outside Warwick Vets Middle School underneath cloudless blue skies to pay homage to veterans of the past and present in a wreath laying ceremony on Monday morning.
Paul Kelley of the Disabled American Veterans Warwick Chapter led in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the keynote delivery was given by Mayor Joseph Solomon, who heaped praise upon military veterans in the state who have sacrificed their own safety for the well-being of their country.
“Our veterans have been the cornerstone and the first defense of our freedom – willing to give their lives if necessary for our country and those around the globe we help to protect,” Solomon said. “Your call to service often goes well beyond the military, answering the call to help any number of charitable causes, nonprofit and civic agencies. Your commitment to our country, our state and our beloved city and the positive impact you have extends well beyond, I'm sure, what you even realize.”
Solomon said that Rhode Island resident have had a distinguished history with the military since the Revolutionary War, reporting that the state is home to over 65,000 veterans, of which 50,000 served in wartime. Of these veterans, more than 3,200 served and fought in World War II, over 6,500 served in Korea and nearly 22,000 served during the Vietnam era. The numbers include about 60,000 men and over 5,000 women veterans.
“However, after serving you have helped to build a thriving community allowing us to raise our families with the core values of faith, family and patriotism,” Solomon continued. “To imagine the hardships that you've all endured in freedom's namesake, the enormity of your sacrifices are all the more poignant for each of us gathered here today.”
The event drew a good number of military veterans, many of who are politically active within Warwick and the state at large, including Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, Ward 8 Councilman Joseph Gallucci, Representative Camille Vella-Wilkinson and Salvatore Caiozzo, who came short of unseating Congressional stalwart James Langevin in last week’s election.
Also on hand were members from local veterans groups and the Historical Society, including president of the Warwick Veterans Council Anthony Rodrigues, who laid the wreath, and Henry Brown, vice president of the Warwick Historical Society, who mentioned the occasion coming close to the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, and proudly shared a story about being a kid at an Armistice Day parade in 1937 and seeing the last surviving veteran from Warwick who fought in the Civil War.
As veterans took in the moment of the wreath laying, which will be kept at the monument throughout the year, the beautiful day marked by a shining sun on the grounds served as a calm reminder to all that Monday was a day to be grateful and reflective.
“Because of you we do not have to fear reprisal based on our religion, race or beliefs. We are free to speak our minds,” Solomon said. “We are free to come and go as we please. We are free to gather and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We are free to celebrate our diversity.”