GLOCESTER – Friends, family and veterans gathered on Saturday at the Glocester Senior Center on Saturday, Nov. 11, Veterans’ Day, to honor and thank local veterans, including a handful of Korean War Veterans, the last vestige of what used to be three Rhode Island companies.
“Our ranks have grown smaller,” Commander Richard Mende of the Korean War Veterans unit told the audience. “Thanks to our associate members we still exist.”
Seven members of Chapter 3 of the Korean War Veterans unit attended the ceremony. They were led into the main room by local Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, including members from Pack 9 Harmony Cub Scouts, Pack 1 Chepachet Cub Scouts and Troop 44 Glocester Boy Scouts. It was the first time the Scouts were invited, said Glocester Town Clerk Jean Fecteau, who, along with Deputy Town Clerk Christine Mathieu, organized the event, which began 15 years ago.
Members of Harmony and Chepachet Cub Scouts and Glocester Boy Scouts accompanied the Korean War Veterans as they entered the main room. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin
“I thought inviting the Scouts would be a good addition,” Fecteau told NRI NOW before the ceremony. “I want young people to understand what it means to be a vet, to meet them, talk to them, get to know them. You can’t let people forget.”
“They were happy to do this,” said Alison Dahlquist, one of the Scout leaders. “A lot of them came. They were very excited.”
Also attending were Town Council members Cheryl Greathouse and Walter Steere, along with Sen. Jessica de la Cruz and Rep. Michael Chippendale, all of whom thanked the veterans in attendance for their service.
“I want to extend a humble thank you to all of our veterans,” Steere told the audience, “because they’re the reason we are able to live the lives that we do. Some of them answered the calling, some of them were called, but they all answered that calling, and they sacrificed many things in their lives to give us what we have today. If you see a veteran today, or any day, thank them.”
Former Air Force Chaplain veteran James Loghry reminded the audience to think not only of the veterans, but of the families of those veterans who sacrificed as well.
Chaplain James Loghry, an Air Force veteran, speaks to the audience. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin
“It’s hard to put into words the impact that those who have served and particularly those we have lost, the impact it had on them and their families personally,” he said. “They came back severely wounded, and came back not able to do much. The families had to continue to live, and they were absent. Dad was absent. Mom was absent. Think of the impact it had on many, many families. We are honoring not only those lost or wounded in the field, but those families who suffered those losses for many, many years afterwards.”
As the names of Korean War veterans who died this November were read by Korean War veteran Adam Bagus, Mende rang a bell for each veteran in response.
Korean War veteran Adam Bagus reads the names of Korean War veterans who died during November, as Commander Richard Mende rings a bell as each name is read. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin
“It is our way of paying tribute to these fallen soldiers,” said Mende.
Both de la Cruz and Chippendale spoke briefly.
Chippendale told the audience war is still ongoing. He reminded them of Edmund Burke’s quote, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” He added that there are about 100,000 World War II vets left in the U.S.
“After that generation came home we vowed that would never happen again,” he said. “We are watching it happen again. It breaks my heart that we have to talk about this, but we have to talk about it.”
De la Cruz said it was important to recognize and thank veterans for their service.
“Veterans from the United States armed forces have done so much and continue to do a tremendous amount for our country,” she said. “Sometimes we do take for granted the sacrifices our veterans make. That’s why I believe this day is a vital day to take time to recognize your service, your sacrifice and your commitment to our country. Rhode Islanders have always answered the call to serve and they have done so with honor.”
Members of the Ponaganset High Chamber Chorus, led by director Derek Sabatini sang both the National Anthem and He’s Gone Away. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin
Fecteau explained that Ponaganset High School teacher Michael Calenda, along with fellow teacher Gary Martinelli, helps to organize Wreaths Across America at the school each year and has veterans share their stories with students. Gianna Decesare and Jaina Yekelchic, secretaries for the Wreaths Across America event, spoke briefly about the importance of the upcoming event, which will take place this year on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 9 a.m. Yekelchic told the audience that her grandfather served in the Korean War and her great grandfather served in World War II.
“It is our duty to preserve their memories and their sacrifices for future generations,” Yekelchic told the audience.
Fecteau, in closing, reemphasized the importance of not only thanking veterans, but ensuring their stories lived on in the future. She said Calenda’s event helped reinforce that, giving veterans an opportunity to share their experiences with younger generations.
“They’ve gotten to hear their stories,” Fecteau said. “They are fascinated by their stories. If they don’t tell us their stories now, their stories will be gone. I don’t want that ever to happen.”
The Ponaganset Chamber Chorus, led by director Derek Sabatini, sang The National Anthem and He’s Gone Away. Blessings were given by Rev. Michael Coburn and Father Stephen Dandeneau.