The Seventh Annual WaterFire Salute to Veterans will take place on November 2, 2019

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.

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 – 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 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

Photograph by Kevin Murray

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.

Photograph by Luis Andrade.

Storytelling Tent: The Storytelling Tent will offer storytelling for all ages in a conversational way. Local Veterans will be sharing stories from the past and present. All Veterans and their family members are invited to share their story or dedication in and between the pre-scheduled program. Our 2018 Storytelling tent featured Matthew Baldwin McCoy, state coordinator for the RI World War I Centennial Commission with a collection of artifacts and memorabilia from WWI. Scenes from PBS’ American Experience – The Great War were screened throughout the evening. Children’s book author Lauren E. Kelley did a book reading and signing of Tuggie the Patriot Pup.

WaterFire Providence lights and activates war memorials in Memorial Park in honor of our veterans. Memorial Park will be alight with blue stars to honor the Blue Star Families of Rhode Island and families that have a loved one serving in the military. Visitors are invited to share their hopes, dedications, and thanks for our veterans. Other special events in this area include:

Starting at near sunset WaterFire will highlight the WWI, WWII, Vietnam and Korean War memorials in downtown Providence with the playing of Echo Taps, recognizing the service and sacrifice of all generations of veterans.

Photograph by Matthew Huang.

A Missing Man Table will also be set up in Memorial Park 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 special memorial ceremony will also take place on the rivers among the fires.  After the Lighting Ceremony, memorial vessels 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.

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