Crowds turn out for Burrillville’s Memorial Day ceremony

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BURRILLVILLE – Whether it was because of Monday morning’s perfect weather, a growing knowledge of the good work done by the town’s veteran groups, or an increased respect for those who have served amid national turbulence, it was a large crowd that showed up to a Memorial Day Ceremony held at Freedom Park in Harrisville.

The annual event, put on by the Burrillville Allied Veterans Council featured music by the Burrillville High School band and select chorus, speakers, and the honor guard.

Berard Desjarlais VFW Post 88 Commander Raymond Trinque led the ceremony, starting with a brief history of the holiday now known as Memorial Day. It was a tradition that began as a day where families would decorate the graves of soldiers lost in the Civil War.

Members of the BHS Select Chorus

Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday was founded by Gen. John Logan, who is also credited with forming the country’s first veterans’ group, the Grand Army of the Republic. Today, the national holiday is celebrated annually on the last Monday in May, honoring all U.S. military personnel who died serving in the armed forces.  

Burrillville Town Councilor Dennis Anderson listed the dozens of conflicts around the world where American military members have fought – and died – defending the country.

“There’s a lot of places where patriots spilled blood,” Anderson said. “On Memorial Day, let’s honor their sacrifice.”

Retired Army Lt. Col. Richard Peck lays a POW flag on an empty chair representing soldiers who have not returned home.

Sen. Jessica de la Cruz said she is often at a loss for what to say to fully capture her gratitude and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

“We can honor them by sharing their names and stories,” de la Cruz said. “We can honor them by remembering that they didn’t just believe in freedom, they felt obligated to protect it.”

The Burrillville Allied Veterans Honor Guard

Among the songs performed by the BHS band was a melody compromised of the anthems from each division of the U.S. Military. Those who served in each brand were asked to stand up and be recognized as their anthem was played.

Town Council President Donald Fox delivered an emotional recollection of his grandfather, who returned from serving in World War II, but ultimately left the family due to the traumas he’d experienced during service.

“Remember loses can and do continue even when they return from combat,” Fox said of military members. “The ultimate price will continue to be paid by the young men and women of the armed forces. They will carry weights that we cannot see.”

Past Post 88 Commander Ronald Lapierre read a long list of names of all the soldiers from Burrillvillle who have died in American military conflicts. Trinque pointed out that a group of small flags placed on a hill by the park represented soldiers who died in action, a tradition started years ago by a history class at Burrillville High School.

“On this day, we dedicate ourselves to never forget,” said state Rep. David Place.

Editor’s note: A brief video from the ceremony will be added to this story once it is complete.

Post 88 members Donna Hamelin, left, and Linda Peck attended the ceremony.
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