WARWICK, RI —Monday’s rainy Memorial Day parade drew a few hundred people sheltering under umbrellas and SUV hatchbacks on West Shore Road leading up to Warwick Veterans Jr. High, where officials unveiled a new Cold War monument.
It was the second year in a row the parade has been rained on, but this time it was not rained out. Last year, a small group of 20 stalwarts turned out for the parade, which rain cancellations winnowed down to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier float.
This year the Unknown Soldier float, a replica of the tomb at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, made a return appearance, but with ample company. The float was accompanied by a long line of umbrella brandishing state and local officials, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, fire trucks, classic cars, and the American Legion Shields Post members in their restored vintage “40 & 8″ truck.
Dennis Lawton (Gunnery Sgt. ret. 1985), one of a group of retired US Marines escorting the Unknown Soldier float, presented Councilwoman Donna Travis with an award honoring her leadership of the small group who proceeded with Memorial Day ceremonies during last year’s rain.
“For your show of generosity and support for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Float, its committee, as well as all of the brave men and women of our armed forces,” Lawton said.
“It’s not a great day for a parade,” said Mayor Scott Avedisian, “However, it’s a small, small, small amount, and pales in comparison to what all of our veterans have gone through in order for us to enjoy all the freedoms that we do.”
Reginald A. Centracchio, retired Adjutant General of the RI National Guard, spoke about the significance of the Cold War.
“First of all, let me thank each of you for being here,” Centracchio said, agreeing that the rain was a small inconvenience compared to the ultimate sacrifices honored on Memorial Day.
“This country has never come closer to a confrontation with a nuclear exchange than October of 1962,” referring to the Cuban Missile Crisis between Oct, 16 and Oct. 28, a political and military standoff with the Soviet Union over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles in Cuba, recounted by History.com.
At the time, Centracchio said, there were five missile sites in Rhode Island. a fact that is easily forgotten, as are the Cold War and the service members who lost their lives during that period.
“So they are as equally as concerning to us as all of the active wars that we were involved in,”Centracchio said
Rep. Camille F.J. Vella–Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick) said she and other members of the Warwick Veterans Council have been working about a year and a half to install a monument to the Cold War among the memorials in front of Warwick Veterans Memorial Jr. High on West Shore Road.
Rick Cascella is donating the rock to be used in the monument, Vella–Wilkinson said, a nearly 5-foot tall piece of dark stone
on his property. Often, she said, Cacella’s neighbors, Confreda Gardens, offer stones cleared from their property, which Cascella takes for use in projects including monuments.
Three of the seminal quotes from the Cold War era will be engraved on the monument, Vella Wilkinson said, first, from Winston Churchill, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
Second, from President Ronald Reagan, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
Finally, another quote from Reagan, she said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.,” referencing the Berlin Wall in 1987. Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, and Reagan’s support of East German protests, led to the wall’s demolition in 1989, according to an analysis of the fall of the Berlin Wall by Liam Hoare in The Atlantic.
“We wanted to commemorate Cold War veterans,” Vella–Wilkinson said. She said when she and her fellow Veterans Council members took stock of the monuments at the site, they realized there was no specific acknowledgement of the sacrifices of those who served during the Cold War with the Russian-led Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from the end of World War II in 1946 until 1991.
While there are monuments that honor service and sacrifice during portions of that time, including the Vietnam War, Wilkinson said, “We wanted something specifically to Cold War veterans, something that would really represent the Cold War.”
Other officials attending the parade included Gov. Gina Raimondo, Warwick Police Col. Stephen McCartney, WFD Chief James McLaughlin, Councilmen Steve McAllister, Ed Ladouceur, Timothy Howe, Joseph Solomon, Representatives Joseph Solomon, Senate Majority leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick), House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi, Sen. Erin Lynch Prata, and Rep. Dave Bennett.
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