This weekend, as ceremonies, parades and special events celebrated and recognized our veterans, I was in Washington, D.C. – a fitting place, in many respects, to reflect on the men and women who have served our country. And to give thanks for their patriotism, bravery and selflessness.
Our veterans left their hometowns, their families and friends, trading the comforts of home for makeshift beds, blasts of gunpowder, the whine of chopper blades, danger lurking with every step they took. They suffered the loss of comrades, memories impossible to shake, and months – in some cases, years – away from all that was familiar and safe. And then, after helping to ensure our freedom and that of people around the world – however long their tours lasted – they came home. And helped in numerous ways to make the United States a prosperous and powerful nation.
Certainly, the debt of gratitude we owe them is one that can never fully be repaid.
Nevertheless, there are people in our community who are working every day to ensure that veterans have programs and services available to them. City Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson – herself a Navy veteran – has been a tireless advocate in this regard. I am proud of the partnerships that our city has forged with the Rhode Island Military Organization to make our community one of the most military-supportive municipalities in the state.
A new lounge at T.F. Green Airport, which will be staffed daily and has been furnished and stocked solely through the generosity of local residents and area businesses, for servicemen and -women has recently opened. A Student Veterans Organization has been established and is headquartered at the Community College of Rhode Island’s Warwick campus, and a local Veterans Resource Center, located in the JONAH center in Oakland Beach, offers support and services.
And Ocean State Job Lot, its employees, customers and Charitable Foundation, in partnership with the Rhode Island Association of Fire Chiefs, has sponsored “Honor Flights,” bringing World War II veterans (and their guardians) from throughout New England and New York to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington for the first time in their lives.
Stories abound, too, of efforts to support individual veterans that have faced any number of challenges since returning home.
It is heartwarming as a lifelong Rhode Islander and as Mayor to see so many people in our community coming together in so many ways to support and thank our veterans. I join with them in expressing my gratitude and respect for the immeasurable sacrifices they have made on our behalf.
Editor’s Note: Mayor Avedisian is also encouraging residents to take part in the 11th Annual “Operation Holiday Cheer,” an initiative organized by the Office of Lt. Governor that relies on sponsors and the general public for donations of wish list items to fill 350 care packages, and monetary donations to ship the packages to troops overseas at the holidays. Donations from the general public will be accepted at the National Guard Armory, 541 Airport Road in Warwick, on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Volunteers will assemble the care packages for shipping overseas with the help of the United States Postal Service on Sunday, Nov. 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Armory. Volunteers must register online to participate at www.ltgov.ri.gov/ohc. For Troops’ Wish List, to volunteer and for more info, visit www.ltgov.ri.gov.