Jonathan Knight, president of the Warwick Neck Improvement Association, had a question for more than 200 elementary school students gathered under Warwick Light Wednesday morning.
Knight asked for a show of hands of how many of the children had a family member in the military or had served in the military. Arms reached up. Then he asked those children who don’t have a direct connection with a veteran to raise their hands.
Knight’s point is that “we’re all touched by the men and women who have served.”
That was made all the more evident by Warwick Neck School fifth graders Taylor Tatarian, Jazymn Downs, Isreal Aquisto and Reeve Rapson who read their compositions in appreciation of veterans in a ceremony hosted by the US Coast Guard at the lighthouse and coordinated by Jack Henriques of the improvement association and Patricia Cousineau, principal of Warwick Neck School.
Henriques started the Veterans Day observance that has become a neck tradition, which so far has been blessed with good weather. Conditions were almost summer-like as the students sang the National Anthem, presented gifts to the Coast Guard and closed out the event with two more musical selections.
Josh Fant, Commander of US Coast Guard Civil Engineering Unit, Providence noted that lighthouses were built for the safety of mariners and to keep vessels away from dangerous rocky shores, “but today it is bringing us together.”
He explained the mission of the Coast Guard is not only to protect those on the sea, but also the environment of the sea.
Mayor Joseph Solomon called veterans the “backbone of our country” urging the students to think of and remember those who have served the country,
Cousineau did her best to dispel the image of a veteran as an aging man with little or no hair and in a wheelchair. She made the point that all veterans aren’t men and then pointed to those gathered in uniform not all elderly. She said veterans help people and “pay it forward,” values taught in school.
And then came the fun part. The students gathered around the members of the Coast Guard and veterans in their uniforms to learn more and, most important, say thank you.
(Text and photos by John Howell)