2016-06-02 / Front Page

Honor Flights Connect Veterans to D.C. Memorials

By James Merolla


Fifty-one area World War II veterans were part of the 12th state Honor Flight to the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. on April 2. On June 4, 22 more local veterans will be flown to our nation's capital through the donations of Vietnam veteran Wayne Moore and the R.I. Fire Chiefs Association, to see the monuments which honor their days of defending the country. It is estimated that only 2,500 WWII veterans remain in Rhode Island. 
(Photo by Wayne Moore) Fifty-one area World War II veterans were part of the 12th state Honor Flight to the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C. on April 2. On June 4, 22 more local veterans will be flown to our nation's capital through the donations of Vietnam veteran Wayne Moore and the R.I. Fire Chiefs Association, to see the monuments which honor their days of defending the country. It is estimated that only 2,500 WWII veterans remain in Rhode Island. (Photo by Wayne Moore) Usually when a mutual aid fire chief shows up at 3:30 a.m. at the home of a 90-year-old man, it is, at best, a crisis; at worst, it’s a tragedy.

But when Middletown Fire Chief Ronald Doire and Little Compton Fire Chief Richard Petrin drove to houses in Middletown and Bristol to pick up World War II veterans to take them to the airport for one of the best days of their lives, the moment spurred elation and lifetime friendships.

“He didn’t sleep all night,” said Petrin of the man he escorted. “He was so excited. It takes your breath away. It’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done and you make a new friend for life.”


Earl Mann of Sterling, Conn., stood and saluted while “Taps” was played at the World War II Memorial. For many local former servicemen, ages 86 to 103, the free trip to Washington might be the only chance they have to see their monument. (Photo by Wayne Moore) Earl Mann of Sterling, Conn., stood and saluted while “Taps” was played at the World War II Memorial. For many local former servicemen, ages 86 to 103, the free trip to Washington might be the only chance they have to see their monument. (Photo by Wayne Moore) “It was a great opportunity for me, an honor for us to be involved, to work closely with a veteran and his family and give them that day of recognition which they so well deserve,” said Doire of meeting WWII veteran William Meteraud of Middletown. “I had no idea that it would be as rewarding and fulfilling as it was.”

On Saturday, June 4, these good feelings will likely be repeated as 22 veterans of World War II and the Korean War gather at T.F. Green Airport and board a flight to visit the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C.

Nineteen are veterans of World War II, and three are Korean War veterans. Two are women. Some have waited 68 years to see a memorial cast to honor their sacrifices. They will be guests of the Honor Flight Network, R.I. Hub. Top priority is given to the eldest or those with a terminal illness.

Time is short, considering that approximately 640 World War II veterans die each day; the youngest World War II veteran is over 86 years old; skyrocketing health care costs have drained the savings of many; and most have been unable to visit the memorials.

This is the 13th Honor Flight arranged from T.F. Green since November 2012. The one-day trips have been organized by George Farrell, Providence fire chief, Ret.

In 2010, Farrell saw an Honor Flight of veterans while traveling with his family through BWI Airport. He shook the men’s hands and raced back to Rhode Island to dedicate himself to a new cause.

“I thought, ‘What a wonderful moment that was. This is something we should do.’” He contacted his fellow chiefs throughout the state, set up the state hub as a nonprofit entity, began soliciting donations, and volunteered his spare time.

“To do this with a group as great as the Rhode Island fire chiefs is an honor,” he said. “The people we take to Washington for the day are mostly elderly, some- times right out of their nursing homes,” said Farrell.

The expenses of this weekend’s trip, as well as the costs of backpacks filled with supplies for the day, are being paid by Wayne Moore, a Vietnam veteran and engineer from Warwick, in honor of his father, Roger W. Moore, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Guardians like Petrin and Doire cover the costs of their own tickets.

Guardians will pick up the veterans from their homes at 3:30 a.m. to arrive at the Warwick Fire Station by 5 a.m. The plan is to depart Green on a Southwest Airlines flight by 7:30 a.m. and arrive in Washington by 8:45. They will visit various memorials from 10 a.m. through 4 p.m., and return to Warwick later in the evening.

They are usually sent off and greeted upon return by military honor guards, Warwick Fire and Police honor guards, chief officers from throughout the state, Providence Police, a firefighter pipes and drums corps, and any members of the public who wish to fortify their spirits.

“I met Bill [Meteraud] of Middletown, a World War II veteran. It was a little intimidating at first. His daughter said, ‘You’ll never get him on a plane. He doesn’t like to fly.’ But he was awesome,” said Doire, who has done the trip three times.

“They are overwhelmed with how much recognition they get at the airport here and in Baltimore. They really don’t expect it. They start conversations. The vast majority of family members will tell you, ‘He is talking about things he hasn’t talked about before.’ They can’t thank you enough. It makes you feel great and changes your life.”

“It’s a long day for them, but you never hear a complaint,” said Petrin. “My father was in the Battle of the Bulge. I lost my dad in 1980. I was 18 years old. He never spoke about it. The gentleman I escorted to Washington was the same way. There are other gentlemen who do speak, though. When they tell their stories, it’s fascinating. They remember the precise details from a day 75 years ago.”

“When a veteran says, ‘This is the best day of my life,’ I feel my mission has been accomplished. I will continue to do this for the rest of my days,” said Farrell.

The 22 veterans who fly from Providence to Washington, D.C. on June 4 as part of the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs will include:

John Giarrusso of Johnston, Army (World War II), Air Force (Korean War), and Air National Guard; Leon Resnick of Warwick, Army; Nathan Lury of Warwick, Army; Leonard Worthen of Wakefield, Navy; Carl Brackett of Pascoag, Air Force; Earle Elliot of Greenville, Army; Edward Tudino of Johnston, Army (Korean War); Edward Joaquin of Tiverton, Navy; Elliot Whitney of Tiverton, Air Force; Armand Girard of Coventry, Navy; John Lombardi of Johnston, Army; Raymond Mc- Cormick of East Greenwich, Navy.

Also going on the trip is Edward Andre of Cumberland, Navy; Louis B. Kelly Jr. of West Warwick, Navy; Mrs. Jean Wicker of East Greenwich, Navy Waves; Theodore Marolda Winstead of Conn., Marines; Eugene Liberati of Cranston, Army Corps of Engineers; John Bianco of Cranston, Navy; Horace Desrosiers of Cumberland, Air Force; Mrs. Mary Andrews of Bristol, Navy Waves; William D. Smith of Greenville, Seabees (Korea); and Antero L. Martins of Pawtucket, Air Force (Korea).

Retire Tattered American Flags

Anyone who has a tattered flag is asked to dispose of it respectfully. For that reason a collection station will be set up Sunday, June 5, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., at Clements’ Market in Portsmouth. American Legion Post 18 will collect tattered flags for proper retirement.

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