By ETHAN HARTLEY
The students at Holliman Elementary couldn’t believe it. Bugs Bunny was an honorary member of the United States Marine Corps? Popeye the Sailor Man used to be Popeye the Coast Guardsman?
Indeed, Rep. Camille Vella Wilkinson had captured the young children’s attention in a way that often is difficult to do during the important ceremonies that occur around Veterans Day – like the one that occurred on Thursday morning at Holliman, as it does each year.
Mayor Joseph Solomon attempted to put the importance of the day in other words.
“If it wasn’t for our veterans, we wouldn’t have the freedom that we enjoy today,” he said to the large crowd of adults and students gathered. “You are the future, and we try to let you know how important it is to thank those who sacrificed to give us the freedom we enjoy now.”
Sacrifice was the crucial word, which Solomon helped drive home the importance of recognizing by inviting Holliman student Manny Parra and his father, Manuel, up to the front of the crowd. Both Manny’s father and mother service in the armed forces, and his father just returned from an overseas deployment recently. Manny said he felt better now that his dad was back safely with him.
“We can learn from the young people in this audience – they can let us know about some things we take for granted,” Solomon said.
Rep. Joseph McNamara shared another story of the importance of perspective, which involved his father – a World War 2 veteran – who served on Okinawa in the Pacific Theater. He recalled being on vacation with his father in the same place as other veterans, one of whom was Harry Kizirian, one of the most highly decorated Marines during World War 2, and the most highly decorated veteran from Rhode Island who also served on Okinawa.
McNamara recalled his father and Kizirian sharing words and experiences, with the two of them eventually laughing joyously as their families enjoyed the beach.
“They were smiling because they were both alive, with their families, in this great country,” McNamara recalled.
The ceremony made special mention of various armed forces veterans, many of whom were in attendance, and included a reciting of “A Grateful Nation” by Holliman 5th grade students. Rep. Vella Wilkinson presented Principal Joseph Coffey with a new American flag, which he presented to students Aidan Flanagan, Madeline Scott and Lily Smiley, who raised the school’s flag at the beginning of the ceremony.
Mayor Solomon reiterated the importance of such events, and thanked principal Coffey and the Holliman PTO for their continuing dedication to hosting and organizing the event.
“This has to be carried forward – it’s a pleasure to be here today to be able to say this today,” he said. “A simple ‘thank you’ to someone who has sacrificed for our country goes a long way.”