BURRILLVILLE – They come from a humble generation, and American Legion Post 88 Commander Raymond Trinque notes that most often, they don’t believe they deserve thanks for their time in service.
Veterans of World War II and the Korean War, he says, aren’t exactly your “tuba players.”
“They’re in the background,” said Trinque. “They don’t think anyone owes them anything, so they’re hard to find.”
But members of club plan to honor the town’s living veterans from the two conflicts, nonetheless, with a project that will see the streets of Burrillville lined with banners recalling the time spent serving their country.
In the upcoming months, the club will begin creating 24 X 38 inch heavy vinyl hanging posters, with pictures of the town’s former military members that include the dates when they served.
The banners will hang from poles in the villages where each veteran lived or lives.
The idea came from a similar in project at a hall in Putnam, Conn. American Legion Post 13 launched its Hometown Heroes Banner Project in 2017, hanging tributes to 30 living veterans throughout Putnam.
Like their counterparts in the neighboring state, Post 88 members hope to acknowledge the town’s veterans while they’re still around to see it.
“One of the things that we as a club believe, is that we want to recognize you while you’re here,” said Trinque. “It’s an honor that you can enjoy. That’s what this is all about.”
“It’s a nice way to receive recognition – even if they don’t want it,” said Trinque. “If you’re going to honor someone, you want to look them in the eye and say ‘thank you.'”
The desire to honor those who served some 65 and 70 years ago while they’re alive means the project won’t wait long, and Post 88 members hope to have the first 12-18 banners in place by Memorial Day, although Trinque acknowledges it may take a bit longer.
“We need to get it going, and get it done,” he said.
After the first year, Trinque said the banners will hang throughout Burrillville from Memorial Day through Veterans Day each year. When a service member dies, his or her banner will be taken down and given to the remaining family members.
An additional banner, listing those killed in action, will be hung by Veterans’ Park in Pascoag.
Post 88 is still seeking living veterans from the two wars, and Trinque notes that there is no cost for the honor. A veteran or member of their family just needs to provide a picture.
The club currently has enough funding to create 30 banners, thanks to successful furniture sale fundraisers held last year. Once members from the two conflicts are honored, Trinque said he hopes to move on to veterans from other wars.
It’s just one of many ways American Legion Berard-Desjarlais works to serve the community. The club, which meets in the small Chapel Street building that once housed Burrillville Ambulance, collects Brigido’s receipts to help out St. Patrick’s church, and can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House. Their donation shed – which collects clothing and linens for those in need – is one of the most successful in the north east, providing items for both locals and Operation Stand Down. Each year, they hold coat drives and collect Toys for Tots, and this year, Trinque says they plan to relaunch Wreaths Across America.
But the commander says their most important work comes through providing aid to the town’s veterans themselves, and the club’s recent efforts have focused on helping former service members obtain benefits. In the past year alone, they’ve helped some 30 vets obtain the insurance and other benefits they earned, including five who were able to receive new hearing aids.
“These things make a difference,” said Trinque. “We can get you an appointment with a VA rep – and we will go to the mat for you.”
The club meets the third Wednesday of every month, but Trinque notes that you don’t need to be a member to get support.
To keep the Post itself in operation, the Legions sells flags, from state flags and yellow flags declaring “Don’t Tread on me,” to versions of Old Glory as large as 20 X 30 feet.
And Post 88’s membership includes more female officers than any of its kind in the state.
“I think for a small group of old people we have a really good reach in the community,” Trinque said.
Those interested in having a banner created for themselves or a family member should contact Dick Peck at 568 8491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.