Although class was not in session, Veterans Park near Warwick’s Veterans Middle School was busy Monday morning, with local veterans and supporters gathering for a Memorial Day observance. …
Although class was not in session, Veterans Park near Warwick’s Veterans Middle School was busy Monday morning, with local veterans and supporters gathering for a Memorial Day observance. The event included both a wreath-laying by representatives from Disabled American Veterans and a flag retirement ceremony (although the flag burning which was originally scheduled to take place had to be rescheduled due to unexpected winds).
In addition to event organizer Rep Camille Vella-Wilkinson, the ceremony was attended by a number of elected officials, honor guards from Warwick’s Police and Fire Departments, and members of the local clergy.
In his opening address, Mayor Frank Picozzi reflected on the unique character of the holiday.
“We do not gather cheerfully today, like we would on the Fourth of July or Veteran’s Day celebrations,” he said. “Today, we gather together to remember the sacrifices our service men and women have made – we gather with the many parents whose children will never come home to go to college, and with the children whose memories of their parents’ smiles have not dimmed after many years.”
Fr. Robert Marciano, pastor of St Kevin Church and president of Bishop Hendricken High School, offered an invocation in which he prayed that the sacrifices of fallen veterans will “keep the torch of freedom burning bright for all to see, and may their memory never fade from our hearts until we see them again.”
A retired Air Force colonel, Fr. Marciano said he tries to attend the Warwick ceremony each year.
“Before I was retired, I used to go to the big ceremony at the State House every year,” he explained. “Honestly, though, I enjoy this event more. The state ceremony is so big and has so many speeches; I like the smaller scale and sense of community here.”
Keynote speaker was Sal Caiozzo, Commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 9. Caiozzo used his speech to focus on the ongoing issue of veteran suicide.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among veterans under the age of 45,” he said, noting that 125,000 veterans have committed suicide since 2001. “For a long time, we were in the habit of using the statistic ’22 a day,’ but a recent study from the Department of Defense and the University of Alabama recently found that the rate has now increased to 24 a day.”
After his speech, Caiozzo explained that suicides are often overlooked as causalities of war. “It may not have happened until after they came home, but these men died from the wounds they had in the war, just like any other fallen soldier,” he said. “We need to keep bringing attention to the issue and reminding veterans that they’re not alone.”
The Disabled American Veterans aids nearly 500 disabled veterans in the Warwick area, although the service area for Chapter 9 is soon to increase.
“We’ll be consolidating with the other DAV chapters in Kent County,” Caiozzo said, adding that the increased membership should lead to a greater turnout for events, such as the organization’s upcoming pig roast fundraiser.
Donna Travis, councilwoman for Ward 6 (which includes Veterans Middle School), was happy that veterans turned out, although the event had attracted more local residents in past years.
“I remember the days when we’d get a huge crowd and people would stick around afterwards to eat and to talk,” she said. “We used to get a ton of people back when the parade was still part of it.”
Rep. Vella-Wilkinson noted that the decision to transition away from the parade was based on suggestions from local servicemen and women. “We used to have a parade, but a number of local veterans expressed that this felt more appropriate for the solemn occasion,” she said. Vella-Wilkinson, a Navy veteran herself, said that the flag retirement ceremony was adapted from a similar Memorial Day tradition held at St. Benedict Parish.
“We wanted to focus our celebration on the real meaning of the holiday and make this a chance to remember what our flag really stands for,” she said.
Although the flags were not burned, there will be a ceremonial incineration at a later date. Anyone with a worn or faded American flag which they would like to have retired may still deposit it in the collection boxes located at the American Legion outpost on West Shore Road or the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge on Tanner Avenue.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here