Flag ceremony launches Military Family Month

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The City Council chambers at Warwick City Hall now permanently house the five flags of the United States armed forces – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard – after an installment ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, which kicked off Military Family Month in the city.

“Today, by installing these five military service flags, we want to salute the families of the brave men and women who everyday risk their lives to ensure our safety and our freedom,” said Mayor Scott Avedisian. “These courageous Americans couldn’t do so without the great level of support and love from their families and their community.”

The “Our Military Families” event was planned and coordinated by Representative Camille Vella-Wilkinson (Warwick), a former city councilwoman and veteran of the United States Navy. The ceremony intended to raise awareness of assisting the country’s veterans, both those deployed and on active duty at home, as well as their families.

“Let us remember that there are men and women far from their families and the comforts of home today. They’re missing hugs and kisses, birthday parties, baseball games, praying for a safe return to the country and the people that they love,” she said. “Some are our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters, our parents, our neighbors, classmates and friends. Others we have never met, but they risk their lives daily for our freedom.”

The ceremony was attended by a small crowd and drew a few veterans, as well as representatives from soldier and veterans advocacy groups, such as the Warwick Veterans Services Organization and the Rhode Island Chapter of Blue Star Families – a group dedicated to providing services and support to military families.

According to Vella-Wilkinson, the military lounge at T.F. Green Airport – which gives active duty service members, veterans and their families a comfortable place to wait in between flights, as well as providing them with free referral services for various necessities of life such as housing and health care – has helped 10,000 veterans and active service members and 6,000 civilians dependent on these service members, in just four years of its operations.

Military Family Month will continue throughout November, and will encompass other events to provide aid to deployed soldiers, such as the Operation Holiday Cheer, where donations of games, Rhode Island favorite foods and drinks and copies of local newspapers are sent to soldiers overseas.

This year, donations of goods will be accepted and sorted at the National Guard Armory at 541 Airport Road in Warwick on Saturday, Nov. 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Volunteers will assemble packages on Sunday, Nov. 19 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., also at the Armory. To see the troops’ wish list, make a monetary donation or volunteer, visit www.ltgov.ri.gov/ohc. The goal this year is to hit 500 packages sent to soldiers.

“Will you join us in lifting up these troops and their families?” asked Vella-Wilkinson. “We may honor them on specific days, but their service makes a difference in our lives every day.”

Dorothy Healy, former vice president of the Rhode Island chapter for Blue Star Families and a mother to an active duty member of the U.S. Army, said that if you participate in one charitable event this year, Operation Holiday Cheer will absolutely stay with you.

“It is a very heartwarming event,” she said. “If you really want to do something that you will never forget and will warm you for a whole year, show up in the morning for a couple of hours and help pack these boxes for the troops.”

Mayor Avedisian commented on the Christmas Tree located in the main foyer of City Hall, saying that he often gets inquiries about why Warwick leaves a Christmas Tree up year-round. The tree, Avedisian explained, holds pictures of active duty service members who are deployed.

“It’s a visible reminder to all of us that we get to have free government, we get to have open government, we get to have all of these methods because there are people who continue to serve day in and day out,” he said.

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