Three local United States Army veterans say remembering soldiers who gave their lives for America’s freedom is an absolute must. In the upcoming week, they will be attending two events to do just that, including the completion of a memorial garden at the VA Medical Center Thursday at 1:30 p.m., as well as the Warwick Memorial Day Parade Monday, which is set to step off between 9:15 and 9:30 a.m.
“Freedom is not free and these folks paid the ultimate price,” said SP4 Jim Burrows, who served in the Army and then worked at the VA for more than 36 years.
The memorial garden celebration will take place at the Providence VA Medical Center at 830 Chalkstone Avenue. The first installment of bricks has been positioned and the men and women of the VA Voluntary Service Committee, along with veterans, will install the remaining bricks, which have been inscribed with loving quotes, and dedicate the garden to those who sacrificed their lives for the country.
Five eight-foot granite slabs that bear the names of the five branches of the military, including Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, will surround the bricks.
“It’s very, very nice,” said Burrows. “We’ve done a lot of landscaping around it and hopefully it will last a lifetime.”
Sgt. Anthony Rodrigues, a member of the Warwick Veterans Council, and SP4 Lenny Malo, a member of the American Veteran’s Council, have been the co-chairmen of the Memorial Day Parade for more than a decade.
While they were disappointed to see the budget for contributive support cut three years ago from $5,500 to $2,750 as a cost savings measure, they are pleased that Mayor Scott Avedisian’s chief of staff, Mark Carruolo, was able to locate another $1,300, as other agencies or associations didn’t use their allotted amounts.
For Rodrigues, it upsets him that more people aren’t engaged in honoring veterans. He worries that this will be the last Memorial Day Parade not only because funding is limited, but also because he feels few are interested in planning the parade.
“It’s a shame because we don’t have a parade committee,” he said. “It’s very hard for us. If anybody wants to take part in the parade and help us form a committee to raise funds, it would be great. They call veterans heroes and they fly the flag at half-staff when veterans die but then no one helps. I hate to see this happen. We want the younger generations to appreciate the fact that these people gave their lives so we can have freedom today.”
Burrows agrees. He hopes younger veterans become more involved.
“They are not necessarily joiners; they are more social and interactive on the Internet,” Burrows said. “They see this as the old guys club, which is a shame because we need their support.”
The parade will begin in the rear parking lot at Bishop Hendricken High School at 2615 Warwick Avenue and finish at Veterans Memorial Park, which is located in front of Warwick Veterans High School at 2401 West Shore Road. Joseph Gallucci, a former city councilman who also worked as a clerk for the Board of Canvassers, will serve as the Grand Marshal.
To help fund this year’s parade, as well as future parades, contact Rodrigues at 919-8951.