Gallery: Burrillville residents remember the fallen at annual gathering at Freedom Park

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From left to right are Linda Morse, Ray Walker, and Bethany Cosetta

BURRILLVILLE – Patriotism and Americana were on glorious display in Burrillville on the Monday, May 17, as the town marked the national Memorial Day holiday. About 100 people, from playing children to uniformed nonagenarian U.S. veterans gathered at Freedom Park.

With hands over hearts, the crowd listened to, “A Memorial Day Poem,” by C.W. Johnson, recited by Burrillville Town Councilor and Post 88 Commander Raymond Trinque.

The poem, in part:

“…They came from every city
Across this fertile land.
That we might live in freedom.
They lie here ‘neath the sand.
I felt a little guilty
My sacrifice was small.
I only lost a little time
But these men lost their all.
Now the services are over
For this Memorial Day.
To the names upon these crosses
I just want to say,
Thanks for what you’ve given
No one could ask for more.
May you rest with God in heaven
From now through evermore. ….”

Left to Right are Gerry Ditomasso and Zachary Lapierre. NRI NOW photo by Karen Iacobbo

A rendition of, “The Star-Spangled Band,” national anthem followed, performed by Burrillville High School Broncos band. Organized by The Burrillville Allied Veterans Council American Legion Posts 17 and 88 and VFW Post 1023, the annual Memorial Day event was hosted by Trinque. 

He explained the POW and MIA cover on the empty chair in the center of the event field is to remember the thousands of lost Americans, and to urge the ongoing work of recovering the lost. 

Senate Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz, of District 23 in​​ Burrillville, Glocester and North Smithfield, expressed, “deep gratitude to our fallen heroes.” 

The day before the senator noted she attended the Sons of Liberty Memorial Day observance in North Smithfield that included mention of General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, who in 1868 issued General Order No. 11 designating May 30, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”   

At the Burrillville ceremony, de la Cruz recited Logan’s words, among them: “…Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the nation’s gratitude—the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan…”

de la Cruz told the Burrillville crowd “ensure that the blood of our patriots who gave their lives so that we may be free is not spilled in vain. We do this by remembering the purpose of their sacrifice, to defend this great nation and the American ideals of our republic – unity, equality, justice, and liberty. God bless you and God bless America.”

House Minority Whip Rep. David Place of District 47 in Burrillville and Glocester spoke about the steps of grief– denial, depression and bargaining, anger and acceptance.

“Death and service to others is honorable and the ultimate expression of love,” he said. 

From experience talking with some of the veterans of the more recent wars, Place said he has found there is a feeling of anger over senseless loss of life, and “the senselessness comes from questions of cause,” for the wars.  

He told the crowd, “let the next cause that we send our young men and women to die for be just, as others in the past.”

Town Council President Donald Fox spoke at the event to honor the veterans, “who paid the ultimate sacrifice on battlefields across the world.”  He said to remember the fallen, including those who although alive, are suffering from the trauma of the battlefield, that they, as well as the fallen, paid with their lives.  

Past Post 88 Commander Ronald Lapierre read the list of names of Burrillville residents who died in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam. He also honored the recent past members of the post who are now deceased.

Col. Chris Toti, accompanied by veterans of WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam War, presented and placed the patriotic red, white, and blue floral wreath for the fallen and the POW and MIA military members.

After the Memorial Day service, veteran George Barber, 96, of Burrillville, was asked what his role was in the war and he quipped with a smile, “winning the war.” 

A corporal in the 75th infantry in the US Army, Barber was stationed in Europe during WWII.

George Barber, 96

Asked about the Memorial Day ceremony, he said it, “is very, very nice. Honoring the veterans every year is a big issue in Burrillville.”

MM2 Armand Tancrede, a Vietnam veteran, said he was pleasantly surprised that despite the threat of rain the event had a nice turnout.

The gathering to honor he said is a, “big difference from what we faced coming back home in the ‘70s. We were openly disrespected.” Veterans, “get respected now,” Tancrede said. “I’m happy the attitude of the public has changed.”  

Boy Scout Jesse Kearsley, 16, the senior patrol leader of Troop 102, said he found the Memorial Day service, “pretty nice.”

From left to right are Jesse Kearsley, Armand Tancrede and Luke Wright.

It’s, “always good to see them,” he said of the eldest veterans in attendance. Kearsley noted that, “every year there are less of them,” and that he always shakes as many hands as possible.

Luke Wright, 15, a Scout troop guide, also made a point of greeting the veterans.

“I think it was wonderful service, and to meet such wonderful people,” he said. 

de la Cruz said she appreciates, “the importance of having these events annually so we never forget the sacrifices made on our behalf.”

“Not only does it honor the fallen, but it educates the young people,” she said. “Too often we forget what seems like the distant past.”

Linda Morse of Pascoag said, “I think we had a great turnout. It’s nice to come together as a town and to see the old ones,” she said referring to the most elder veterans. “They should be honored everyday not just today.”

Ray Walker agreed, noting that he’s been attending the town’s Memorial Day service each year for several years.

Bethany Cosetta attended the event for her father, who is a veteran and will be 80 years old this year. 

Town Councilor Dennis Anderson, dressed in colorful patriotic attire, had given the invocation that included a Bible verse, a quotation from Civil War era President Abraham Lincoln, and invoked the heroes of the 1776 American Revolution, as well as those latest to have fallen in duty to freedom. Anderson also gave the benediction, asking God for peace and for people to remember and honor those who gave their all on the battlefield so Americans would have freedom. 

“Freedom is not free,” he said. 

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