WARWICK, R.I. — About 15 officials, veterans and citizens gathered around the World War 1 memorial at City Hall Monday to observe the 151st Memorial Day with a wreath laying ceremony, with the promise of a new approach to the holiday on the horizon.
“As we all know, Memorial Day is not a happy occasion. It’s is a solemn, sober occasion,” said Mayor Joseph Solomon during brief remarks before he and Councilman Timothy Howe placed a wreath before the memorial, honoring those who died in service to the country, defending the United States under an oath to preserve the Constitution.
Before the ceremony began, members of the crowd, including Solomon and other city officials, spent several minutes studying the names recorded on the plaques embedded in the stone.
“I took an honest, long look at this memorial,” said Howe, also the city’s veterans liaison.
Howe described the sorrow many veterans and their families feel on Memorial Day as they remember the sacrifices many of their friends and loved ones made. He said the confusion many have for the day sometimes lead well-meaning people to wish veterans a, “happy Memorial Day,” When he hears that, he says, he thinks of his own friends lost in service.
Paul DePetrillo, who served as a specialist fourth class in the U.S. Army from 1966-1969, during the Vietnam War, in the signal corps in Korea, also attended, and mused that a number of the men he trained with likely didn’t return home.
Howe said the plan for future Warwick observances of Memorial Day and Veterans Day will help distinguish between the two national holidays. Memorial Day, Howe said, should include students and research into the names and stories of the service members who lost their lives in service.
“So that the veterans names don’t disappear,” Howe said.
Future Memorial Days in Warwick will be focused on remembering and honoring veterans and their sacrifices, Howe said.
Veterans Day, Howe said, will celebrate the service of living veterans. He said he is also working with members of the community to find the best way to celebrate their service, perhaps with a Veterans Day parade.
“At 51-years-old, I didn’t know the difference between the two holidays,” said Bill Muto.