Second annual Armed Forces Day at Burrillville church honors those who served

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Speroni, seen here speaking at Armed Forces Day in May. NRI NOW photo by Karen Iacobbo

BURRILLVILLE – Gray skies and rainy mist engulfed the Pascoag Community Baptist Church on Saturday, May 20; yet inside the white edifice, topped by a tall steeple, the atmosphere was sunny and warm-hearted. Plenty of red, white, and blue adorned the altar as, “Yankee Doodle,” and other patriotic songs were sung, and poems and short speeches were recited by children, teens, and adults for the church’s second annual Armed Forces Celebration Day.

Rev. Bryan Speroni, pastor of the church and principal of its Community Christian School, said of the men and women of the military, “We are so thankful for their willingness to lay their life on the line for the cause of freedom and liberty here and around the globe.”

The festive event at the church in Burrillville was to “celebrate this great country we live in,” said Speroni.

What’s more, “…we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy freedoms, freedoms we experienced right here this morning: freedom of  speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion; it’s been wonderful to have this day today to celebrate and honor the members of our military,” the pastor said. 

“God bless them all.”

Speroni said he’s especially thankful for the military members who were able to attend the event, and that he’s hoping to have the armed forces celebration again next year.

Another of the speakers at the event, Town Councilor Dennis Anderson, said to the audience:  “God, country, family; you’re all here because those are priorities in your life.”

Anderson said he appreciates all those serving, or who have served, “the cause of liberty and freedom.”  

“I was so impressed,” Anderson said about the youngsters participating in the event by singing songs and giving presentations. 

“If every kid in the country was like the ones I witnessed today, our future is in great hands,” said Anderson.

Other presenters included the Miller twins, Ellen and Ruth, longtime members of the church and teachers at the school.

The ladies are “grateful to the bravery of the American Army for liberating…[our] father from a concentration camp in Austria,” said Ruth Miller. 

“It’s a miracle we are here,” said Ellen Miller.

She said not only did their father survive and go on to marry and thrive overall, but she and her sister were born three months premature and weren’t supposed to live, yet they did.

“We came here to celebrate and support the veterans, the veterans of today and tomorrow,” said Kelly Harden, who attended the event with his family. 

Of military men and women Kelly said it’s, “extremely important the sacrifices they’ve made and continue to make…and crucial to the future.”

Also attending the commemorative day were members of Berard-Desjarlais American Legion Post 88, including Commander Raymond Trinque, another member of the Burrillville Town Council. 

From left are Richard Peck, Raymond Trinque and Linda D’Andrea Peck.

“It’s a great celebration of patriotism and honoring the military, and (the) veterans and the kids just do a fantastic job,” said Trinque.

“These kids, they’re going to be good Americans,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Richard Peck, a Post 88 past commander.

Also pleased with the celebration at the church was Linda D’Andrea Peck, a Gulf War era veteran, and Veteran Service Officer for the town of Burrillville. 

“I try to help any veteran that needs anything done,” she said.

“I’m so honored to be part of the celebration and that we’re celebrating the men and women who protect our country and that make it the best country, the best nation, in the world,” said state Senate Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz.

de la Cruz thanked the church on social media.

“Happy Armed Forces Day,” noted de la Cruz. “Thank you to the Community Christian School in Pascoag for hosting a celebration honoring the men and women who protect this great nation. Each person in attendance was given a toy soldier to place in their home so that every time they see it, they are reminded to pray for our soldiers.”

The senator also sponsored a resolution, adopted by the Senate, recognizing May 20 as “Armed Forces Day” in Rhode Island. Senators also welcomed and recognized several active duty members of the armed forces who were in attendance. 

“This Senate of the State of Rhode Island hereby heartily honors and celebrates “Armed Forces Day” on May 20th, 2023, and thanks each and every member of the United States military for their service and for the sacrifices they make for our nation…” the resolution states, in part.

President Harry Truman issued a Presidential Proclamation creating Armed Forces Day on February 27, 1950.

The celebration at the church in Pascoag is now part of a long chain of parades, breakfasts, speeches, and other events and festivities that connect and commemorate Armed Forces Day across America.

Gray skies and rainy mist and a chill in the air last Saturday in Burrillville belied the warmth and bright spirited atmosphere inside the picturesque Pascoag Community Baptist Church. Family and friends and the public took time to celebrate the men and women of the American armed services on their special day. 

Kelly Harden
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