NORTHERN RHODE ISLAND – It’s a long weekend marking the start of summer, and often, a time for cookouts, fireworks and outdoor gatherings with family and friends.
But Memorial Day means much more than just a day off of work, and several events across northern Rhode Island will mark the occasion, and remember the heroes it was created to honor.
The American holiday, observed each year on the last Monday of May – or Monday, May 31, in 2021 – is a day to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it began in the years following the Civil War, and became an official federal holiday in 1971, honoring the dead who fought in all wars.
Locally, several organization have planned gatherings to commemorate the day.
In Burrillville, The Burrillville Band and Allied Veterans Council will host a ceremony at Freedom Park in Harrisville starting at 11 a.m.. Unlike past years, there will be no additional ceremony at the Nasonville Monument, due to the current detour from bridge work on Route 102 and accompanying traffic.
The Burrillville High School Select Choir will perform at the event with The Burrillville Band.
Residents are invited to attend the ceremony, or can watch from the comfort of home, as the event will also be live-streamed via Facebook. Anyone in need of more information can call (401) 568-0858.
In North Smithfield, Leclaire Kozlik Bassett Logan Post 6342 will hold their traditional Memorial Day Parade. Participants will assemble at the Slatersvillle Plaza and step off at 10:30 a.m., proceeding to the Memorial Town Building on Main Street, where members of the VFW will perform the solemn Memorial Day ceremony to honor lost comrades.
Organizer Linda Thibault noted that this year, the event is especially poignant following the recent death of Commander Ernest Frappier of North Smithfield, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War, Legacy Member of Post 6342 and the Amvets, and former State Commander. Frappier, who died on May 7, was buried at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery. His family will be the honorary Grand Marshall of the parade, on the 75th Anniversary of Post 6342 carrying on the Memorial Day tradition of honoring fallen comrades.
The North Smithfield High School band will play the National Anthem and Taps during the ceremony, and then the parade will proceed to the Village Haven for hot dogs and cold beverages provided by Scott McGee of Gators Pub, and Mike Pestana of Lil’ General.
Thibault organized the event along with McGee and Farrell McMillan, chairman of the parade committee, and thanked her colleagues for their efforts in preserving the tradition. Thibault also thanked Gary Naradowy and the Village Haven for hosting the collation.
“Thank you to all members of VFW Post 6342 for continuing to remind us of the true significance of Memorial Day,” she said. “Acting Commander David Thibault invites all military personnel and Veterans to join in the parade and Memorial Day ceremony.”
Also in North Smithfield, the General Zenas Bliss Camp #12 of the Rhode Island Sons of Veterans of the Civil War will host a Memorial Day ceremony at 11 a.m. at Hotchkiss Cemetery on Smithfield Road. The ceremony will include rendering of military honors with a rifle salute, and the playing of Taps.
SUVCW promotes the proper observance of Memorial Day and the preservation of Civil War Memorials and burials. The organization is recognized as the legal successor to the Grand Army of the Republic, which began Memorial Day in 1868.
The public is invited to attend the commemoration at Hotchkiss, which is adjacent to Union Cemetery on Smithfield Road.
In neighboring Woonsocket, the Veterans Memorial Museum on Earle Street will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum, operated by North Smithfield resident Glenn Dusablon boasts a large collection of artifacts, from weapons and uniforms, to medals, and everyday items from various conflicts.
At St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery on Farm Street in nearby Blackstone, Mass., a public open-air Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. on Monday, “on behalf of all the faithful departed buried there.” The event is a long standing tradition at the cemetery, and relatives and friends are encouraged to attend, and bring a folding chair. Father John Kiley will offer the Mass, and Wayne and Becky Kilcline will coordinate music and liturgical participation.
No matter how you chooses to commemorate Memorial Day, amid the BBQs, beach time or general relaxation, don’t forget to take a moment to remember and honor those who came before, and made the ultimate sacrifice.