The WaterFire Salute to Veterans event is a collaborative, community-wide celebration, whose mission is to honor and recognize all United States veterans, active and reserve military personnel and families for their service, sacrifice, and contributions to this nation, and to organize, exhibit and highlight the wealth of veteran-oriented organizations and services available to them.
See details from previous WaterFire Salute to Veterans lightings: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013
The outline below describes a typical WaterFire Salute to Veterans lighting; our 2020 event was significantly different and conducted virtually due to public health requirements.
See the 2020 WaterFire Salute to Veterans Video program:
Presented in partnership with the State of Rhode Island, the Providence VA Healthcare Systems and PREVENTS, the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, WaterFire Providence will premiere a pre-recorded video program to salute our nations veterans and active-duty military personnel and help raise awareness of the ongoing suicide and mental health crisis among those who serve.
Online resources for veterans living with mental health or substance abuse issues can be found at: PREVENTS, the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, REACH.gov, and Help.org’s substance abuse and rehab guide for Veterans.
The WaterFire Salute to Veterans Opening Ceremonies will consist of two parts. The Opening Ceremonies the RI State House with a speaking led by local representatives and a keynote speaker
Starting before sunset 150 Veterans march from the State House steps to Waterplace Park Basin led by the Rhode Island Professional Firefighters Pipes and Drums. This procession is followed immediately by the Salute to Veterans Lighting Ceremony in Waterplace Basin with performances by military bands.
Typically the lighting ceremony is concluded with a Memorial Canoe Ceremony on the River. The Memorial Canoe ceremony honors and remembers our fallen heroes.
WaterFire Salute to Veterans Resource Fair and Special Events
From 3:00 – 10:00 the Veterans Resource Fair transforms Washington Street and Washington Street Bridge into an informational and educational center featuring organizations from across Rhode Island dedicated to providing services to veterans and their families.
From 3:00 – 9:00 pm there is typically a display of classic and current Military Vehicles on the College Street Bridge.
Sunset – 9:00 pm Memorial Tributes and Dedications in Memorial Park. Monuments will be lit in honor of all of our Veterans. Wreaths will be placed at the World War, WWII, and Korean War memorials. Starting at approximately 6:35 pm buglers will play taps throughout Memorial Park. Read more about the Memorial Tributes and Dedications in Memorial Park.
A 300 Torch Salute will kick-off the WaterFire Salute to Veterans Lighting Ceremony
Each year veterans from Rhode Island and beyond are invited to participate in the ceremony. Sign up forms are posted each year in the months leading up to the event.
Please email our events and operations team for more information.
Highlights from previous years have included:
Torch procession and WaterFire Lighting Ceremony
The public is invited to join us in front of the State House steps where the Opening Ceremonies begin with a roster of distinguished speakers. Prior years ceremonies have included – Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, executive director of PREVENTS, Major General (ret.) Paul Mock, 4-star General (ret.) Craig McKinley, Director of the Office of Veteran Affairs Kasim Yarn, Capt. Ian Johnson, Commanding Officer of NS Newport, Major General Christopher P. Callahan, and special Keynote speaker Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup. Following the opening ceremonies is an enlistment ceremony and swearing-in of new recruits of the different military branches. A presentation of the colors, singing the National Anthem to honor our Veterans leads into the Salute to Veterans Torch Procession
The WaterFire lighting will be kicked off with a spectacular Salute to Veterans Torch Procession and Ring of Fire in Waterplace Basin. Veterans from our community will process into the Waterplace Basin. Here they will join their brothers and sisters in arms to surround the basin in a ring of fire ceremony with a presentation of the colors as the National Anthem and a full music program is played. Prior years have featured the RI Professional Firefighters Pipes and Drums and the Navy Band Northeast Rhode Island Sound and the Governor’s own Army 88th Band on the basin stage.
WaterFire Providence Veterans Resource Fair
The WaterFire Providence Veterans Resource Fair on Washington Street and Washington Street Bridge is led by the Providence VA Medical Center and supported by contributing sponsors.
Located on Washington Street and the Washington Street Bridge and opening at 3:00 pm, the Veterans Resource Fair features organizations from across Rhode Island dedicated to providing services to veterans and their families. WaterFire invites Veterans, their families, and the public to come and learn about all of the amazing resources available to them – from medical care and job transition services to educational programs and Veteran’s family services.
In prior years the Providence VA Medical Center along with the Veterans Benefits Regional Office will have an entire area dedicated to enrolling veterans in the VA healthcare system. Veterans and their families can learn about all the healthcare offerings the Medical Center has and learn about benefits such as education and home loans from the Benefits Regional Office.
Memorials and Ceremonies Honoring Each Branch of Service
Starting at near sunset WaterFire will highlight the WWI, WWII, and Korean War Memorials in downtown Providence with the playing of taps, recognizing the service and sacrifice of all generations of veterans.
A Missing Man Table will also be set up on the confluence, where the rivers meet, to honor and recognize all those soldiers who have gone into battle and have not returned. Full of symbolism, this table contains many items that remind us of the sacrifices of both military and civilian lives lost and affected through combat and military service.
A Veteran Memorial Ceremony will also take place on the rivers among the fires. After the Lighting Ceremony, a memorial vessel will pass through the bonfires along the length of the river to honor and remember the servicemen and women that are no longer with us. Guests are invited to salute or place their hands over their hearts as the memorial canoes make their way throughout the installation.