SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Unlike years past, the sidewalks along Main Street weren’t crowded with spectators as marching bands and floats proceeded towards Saugatucket Park. This year, on Veterans Day, there was no parade or large crowds to mark the occasion — just a small wreath-laying ceremony.
The streets and the field weren’t crowded with service members and their families, as they would have been under normal circumstances, but small groups gathered to recognize and thank veterans for their service in some way.
While many things were forced to change this year, others remained exactly the same. Once again, Lt. Col. James Haldeman of the United States Marine Corp served as the master of ceremonies and the Rev. Wallace Hazard of the Community Church of God was still present to lead everyone in prayer.
The typical trappings of Veterans Day may have been missing, but Town Council President Abel Collins was quick to remark that this was “still an important occasion for us to recognize all the sacrifices that our service men and women made for our country.”
He shared words of thanks toward those who were able to gather for the small ceremony this year, as well as those who were watching the livestream from home. Health restrictions aside, Collins noted that this year was a particularly noteworthy celebration, since it marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
“Much of this year has been a battle, trying to protect the greatest generation, who really fought that war and preserved our freedom,” Collins said. “And not just our freedom, but the freedoms of the whole word.”
“The precautions that we’ve been taking to keep the virus from spreading is really protecting that elder generation,” he added. “Fewer and fewer of them are here to celebrate Veterans Day with us, and I think it’s important that we recognize the sacrifice and the sense of duty that made them heroes for all of us.”
Everyday citizens need to embrace that type of sacrifice today, Collins said, by wearing a mask, following social distance guidelines and keeping our social circles small, to help older, veteran populations.
“May God bless all of us in the United States of America, but in particular, all the members of our armed services,” he remarked.
Only a small handful of veterans were able to attend the ceremony this year, but members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 916, and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 325, were still able to make it a memorable event. A high school student also helped to make the event memorable by lending his musical talents. In a moment of silence, as a wreath was placed at the base of the flagpole, the only thing that could be heard was the sound of a trumpet.
VFW Post 916 Commander Joe “Tiger” Patrick, along with several other veterans recognized by Haldeman during the course of the ceremony, stood saluting near the base of the flagpole while the music carried through the field.
“We pray that we’ll never forget their sacrifice, each day of our lives,” Hazard said during a closing prayer, shortly after that quiet, somber moment. “I lost members of my family in the war. Lord, many others have. And yet Lord, we still must be concerned about those that are on frontlines everyday.”
In addition to the wreath-laying that took place at Saugatucket Park, wreaths were also laid at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Dale Carlia Corner, the Hazard Memorial and the Civil War Veteran Monument at Riverside Cemetery, earlier that morning.