When Rob Caramante, the Tri-City Elks volunteer music man pumped the sounds of the national anthem into Lodge 14’s jam-packed downstairs dining room last Thursday, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
Moreover, after Rhode Island Elks Vice President West Mark Eaton introduced Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon who delivered a heart-warming welcome, Lodge 14 put on what many attendees called “a spectacular stars and stripes salute” to 80 men who live at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol.
“This is our motto…Elks Care, Elks Share,” Solomon, a long-time member at Lodge 14, told the veterans before going from table-to-table shaking hands with man and thanking them for making the sacrifices and defending the nation’s freedoms.
So, for nearly three hours, Tri-City Elks volunteers treated the veterans to an all-you-can-eat dinner that included Eaton’s baked chicken and macaroni, French fries, sweet potato fries, seasoned fries and the event’s annual signature dessert, specially made banana splits that consisted of three different flavors of ice cream, strawberries and bananas topped with whipped cream and of course a cherry on top.
“These men love this,” said Eaton, a decorated Vietnam/Purple Heart veteran, in regards to what many of the visitor’s aides called “a marvelous meal and dessert that they’ll be talking about for days.”
However, the luncheon – which was held in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day – was an outpouring of love for veterans, replete with red, white and blue table covering that featured mini-American flag centerpieces.
Lodge 14’s was also adorned with red, white and blue stars and hearts that were hung on the walls and of course with the American flag in full view for the veterans to see as Caramante played their respective service anthems along with a rendition of God Bless America.
“There’s lots of love here today,” Solomon told Eaton and Lodge 14’s recently installed Exalted Ruler Deb Mangina. “This is what makers me proud to be an Elk.”
Eaton echoed those sentiments while watching his wife Lori Eaton, Tri-City’s lady for all seasons and reasons, escort 94-year-old U.S. Army veterans and Warwick native Ernie Anderson onto the dance floor as Caramante played a special song.
Likewise, Deb Petisce, an officer at Lodge 14, finished her duty and scooted over to John Egan, a U.S. Army veteran who fought in the Korean War and rolled his wheelchair out for not one but several fun-filled dances.
“The people here have always been special and treated the veterans like royalty,” several aides observed while finishing their banana splits and getting the heroes ready for a group photograph. “You can’t help but become emotional and happy for all these veterans.”