SOUTH KINGSTOWN — This year’s Veterans Day Parade will honor two local heroes who’ve served both their country and their community.
Grand Marshals Errico “Hank” Almonte, Jr. and Richard Parker have not only been honored with marshaling this year’s parade but were also named Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 916 Veterans of the Month, according to Post Commander Joe “Tiger” Patrick.
Almonte served as a Sergeant First Class in the United States Army 11th Airborne Division, from Feb. 1951 to March 1954, according to Patrick, who shared information about each of the veterans on the VFW Post 916’s Facebook page. Almonte also served in the Auxiliary Coast Guard from 1965 to 1970.
One of his highlights while serving in the Army occurred in November 1952.
“Hank’s unit participated in Exercise Warmwinds, with the 503rd Combat Regional Team where, as the defending company, they retook Eielson Air Force Base in 26 hours,” said Patrick. “Sgt. Almonte’s men crept forward past the aid station, and the squad later cut off an entire enemy battalion.”
The following year, Almonte was in Yucca Flats, Nevada during atomic bomb testing, something that resulted in health problems later in life due to radiation exposure.
“Hank has been a beloved member of South Kingstown for years, having owned two popular local businesses; A Quick Tire and Universal Firearms,” Patrick wrote. “He also worked for the State of Rhode Island Department of Transportation as Deputy Assistant Director of Transportation, as well as Assistant Director of Central Voter Registry.”
Almonte has been a long-time member of the American Legion Post 39 here in South Kingstown and is active with the local post when staying in Florida.
His fellow parade grand marshal also served in the Army, where he was an Infantry squad leader with 12 men under his command, according to Patrick. Parker was part of the Occupational Force in Japan.
“One of Richard’s memories of his service during the Occupation of Japan was when WWII ended days before his unit was shipping out,” Patrick wrote. “They had all their vehicles full of weapons and were armed and ready to go. They reloaded the ships with food and medical supplies for the Japanese. While Richard was stationed in Japan, he completed assignments in Wakayama and Osaka. He stayed there for about six months, with various duties including disposing of Japanese military items and dumping them into the ocean.”
When Parker later returned from his time of service, he went back to finish his last year at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he earned a degree in Advertising Design.
Parker moved to New York City and became, “a mad man,” according to Patrick. He stayed in New York for about three decades but later returned to Rhode Island.
Richard is among the eldest members of VFW Post 916 at age 97 and will be celebrating his next birthday on Nov. 16.
This weekend not only celebrates and honors veterans, but it also marks the Poppy Drive, which brings in the majority funding for the VFW Post 916’s emergency relief fund.
“We want people to know that when they see us out in the community this weekend selling poppies, it’s all helping local veterans and their families,” Patrick said.
Member of the Post can be found at Belmont and Shaw’s in Wakefield, and the Stop & Shop in Hope Valley, according to Patrick. All funds raised from the Veterans Day breakfast held before the parade will also benefit the emergency relief fund.
In addition to a good turn out on Monday morning, Patrick is also hoping that more Veterans might be encouraged to come out and participate in the parade, rather than watching from the sidelines. He strongly encourages any veterans to jump right into the parade and be celebrated for their service.
The parade will be stepping off on Monday at 10 a.m., according to Director of Leisure Services Terry Murphy. The route will start on Holly Street, turn onto Main Street, with the final quarter-mile on High Street, finishing at the Saugatucket Park Veterans Monument. Following the parade, a small ceremony will be held at Saugatucket Park to honor all veterans.
“The Veterans Day parade and ceremony give the whole town the wonderful opportunity to come together and honor friends, relatives, and neighbors who are active duty or have served our country and defended its freedom,” Murphy said. “It’s a celebration of real-life heroes and shouldn’t be missed.”
In the event of inclement weather, the parade will be canceled and the ceremony will be held at South Kingstown High School at 11 a.m.