BURRILLVILLE – Two new banners for Burrillville veterans who served in World War II and the Korean War went up in Harrisville this week, thanks to an ongoing effort by American Legion Berard-Desjarlais Post 88 to honor the town’s living Hometown Heroes.
And even as a statewide two-week “pause,” aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 goes into effect, the group has continued with charitable efforts to bring holiday cheer to both families in need, and those serving oversees.
The first eight banners – 24 X 38 inch vinyl flags with the pictures, names and dates of service of Burrillville residents in U.S. conflicts of the 1940s and 1950s – went up along bridges in Harrisville and Pascoag last May.
With most who served in the wars now in their 80s, 90s and beyond, the project aims to honor the former soldiers living in town while they are still around to enjoy it.
Two of those veterans have passed away since the effort began, and their flags came down as planned. Ralph Palmieri, a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1948 to 1956, died before the tribute could officially be raised, and his flag was flown briefly.
The banners honoring Palmieri, and the late Korean War veteran Zane Sherman, have since been given to their families.
Another flag, honoring veteran Donald Forgue, was lent to his family for a party for his 50th anniversary, then returned to the Bridgeway in Pascoag.
And this week, the Post raised flags for two more living heroes with the help of local businesses: Raymond Bernard, who served in the U.S. Army from 1950-1952 and Louis Lambert, who served from 1953-1954. Pascoag Utility District hung the flags free of charge and Simpson Insurance provided the club discounted rates for the needed coverage.
The feat was accomplished even as the post prepares for closure of its Chapel Street headquarters from Tuesday, Dec. 1 through Tuesday, Dec. 15, in keeping with Rhode Island’s two week “pause,” which aims to curb the spread of the virus.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” said post Commander Raymond Trinque of locking up the Binns building. “Maybe, we can actually have a Christmas.”
Despite limitations, post members also took part in the Operation Holiday Cheer, and held a drive to send care packages to military personnel serving oversees.
The pause coincides with the time when the group would normally be holding another charitable effort, with a Christmas party that doubles as a toy drive. In 2019, the group collected more than 300 new, unwrapped toys through the event, working collaboratively with the Burrillville Police Department to help provide Christmas to local families, as well as Toys for Tots to distribute the gifts statewide.
“I don’t know if we’ll reach that this year, but we’re hoping,” Trinque said.
Normally, their efforts each holiday are also centered around the clothing shed at the Binns buildings, but it, also, is closed for the time being.
In place of the annual party where post members gather to watch the Army/Navy football game, the organization has placed a toy collection box at Lawrence Brothers Hardware store.
And on Saturday, Dec. 12, they’ll host a “pop the trunk” drop off event, where donors can pull up, and members will take the toys from their vehicle.
Those who would like to donate should bring the new, unwrapped gifts to 11 Chapel St. between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.