WEST WARWICK — Old Glory flies high above West Warwick's Veterans Square, a vivid reminder of all who have fought for freedom. But the flag hasn't always been there. 

Frustrated about there being no American flag at the site — despite it being named for those who have served the country — David Rourke brought the issue to Rep. Thomas Noret.

“In my previous career as a law enforcement officer, there was a phrase I used often: ‘if you see something, say something,’” said Noret, who represents parts of West Warwick and Coventry. “I continue to voice that concept as an elected official, and constantly tell people I can’t help them if I don’t know there’s a problem.”

At one point there had been a flagpole in Veterans Square, Noret recalled Rourke telling him, but it disappeared several years ago. 

Noret promised that he would look into the matter.

On a chilly morning this past weekend a ceremony took place, and the flag that now waves from atop a pole at the corner of Legris Avenue and Main Street was raised for the first time ever. 

Charles Petrarca, of American Legion Post 2, led the Saturday event, which opened with a presentation of the colors by the Rhode Island Young Marines. Addison Noret sang the national anthem, and Matthew Saulino of the Civil Air Patrol recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Jane Deptula, chaplain in the Rhode Island Marine Corps League, delivered the invocation. 

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed was among those in attendance. As cars passed by the small roadside park, Reed took a moment to commend those “who have served under this incredible flag.”

“They have left us a legacy of courage and sacrifice, and the flag stands for that sacrifice and that service,” said Reed, an Army veteran. “Now, as the people of West Warwick pass this site, they will recognize those who have served, those who are serving today, and the next generation of men and women who will serve this nation.”

Rhode Island House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, Sen. John Burke, Rep. Gregg Amore, West Warwick Town Council Vice President Maribeth Williamson, West Warwick School Committee Chair Luis Colon and West Warwick Town Manager Mark Knott also attended the dedication ceremony.

The event was one many months in the making. 

After hearing Rourke’s concern around a year ago, Noret worked with town leaders and eventually secured the donation of a flagpole by the West Warwick Veterans Council. The pole was purchased from veteran-owned Eagle Flag of Massachusetts, and was installed by the town’s Department of Public Works. 

Faria & Son Landscaping, of West Warwick, has adopted the site and will manage its upkeep moving forward. Hattoy’s Nursery & Garden Center, of Coventry, has offered to donate materials.

Following a reading by Bob Schierschmidt, of Post 2 and the West Warwick Veterans Council, of a patriotic poem, Noret presented Rourke with the new flag. 

Then, while those gathered looked on, Petrarca and Rene Reyes, a member of the Rhode Island Young Marines, unfurled the folded flag, and Reyes hoisted it to the top of the pole. 

Noret said later that he was proud to have seen this project through from start to finish, adding that he’s made advocating for veterans a priority since his election to office.

Noret also lauded Rourke, himself a longtime veterans' rights activist, before presenting him with a House of Representatives citation recognizing his tireless dedication to the cause. 

“This flag which we honor, under which we serve, is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation,” American Legion Post 2 member Joseph Campbell said, quoting President Woodrow Wilson, as the ceremony was drawing to a close.

And while the American flag billowed above him, Campbell sang “God Bless America."

“There’s one word that describes our American flag, and that word is freedom,” Campbell continued. “Because of the American veterans, we do live in this free country, and we live under this flag.”

kgravelle@ricentral.com

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