The Museum of Work and Culture will host a special observance of Veterans Day tomorrow morning, acknowledging Woonsocket's contribution to World War I on the 11th day of the 11th month in the 11th year.
The unique date served as inspiration for organizers, who focus on veterans from a different war each year for their annual ceremony. Veterans Day, which honors all US soldiers, is celebrated as Armistice Day in other parts of the world, and marks the signing of the armistice, an agreement which ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany. The document was signed on on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. in 1918.
The museum's observance, which normally begins at 10 a.m. has been moved this year to 11 a.m. to acknowledge the historical significance of the date and the hour. Museum co-director Raymond H. Bacon will give an overview on how the war impacted the local area, remembering the 33 soldiers from Woonsocket that lost their lives in the conflict.
"It's important to remember what these people have done for us," said Romeo Berthiaume, one of the committee members who helped to organize the event. A moment of silence will be observed in honor of the soldiers who died in the war and local war veterans are specifically invited to participate. The Rev. Ernest Berthelette, a former army chaplain, will give the invocation and Boy Scout Troop 2 from Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Parish will assist in the set-up and participate in the flag-raising ceremony.
"In the past, the ceremony has been very moving," said Berthiaume, remembering one emotional year in which a Vietnam veteran spontaneously got up to speak. "A lot of the World War I veterans are gone, but their kids and grandkids may want to attend."
Mayor Leo Fontaine will speak and a flag-folding ceremony, featuring members of the Junior ROTC program from Woonsocket High School will be narrated by Dave Richards of WOON 1240 radio. Jeff Gamache of WNRI 1380 radio will read a brief history of “Taps” and will narrate its lyrics which will be played by two trumpeteers from Mount Saint Charles Academy. Several re-enactors will be present and Keith Ezovski of Lincoln will fire the traditional cannon blasts to open and close the ceremony. Local performers Charles Desaulniers and Jean O’Donnell will be the guests soloists.
The ceremony is scheduled outside the museum, located at Market Square in Woonsocket, but inclement weather would move it inside, to the ITU Hall. This year’s program will be dedicated to the memory of long-time committee member Marshall Sloat who passed away March.
The Georges Dubois Veterans Exhibit at the museum serves as a year-round reminder of the sacrifices of all of Woonsocket's soldiers.
"We would be remiss if we didn't recognize their contributions," said Berthiaume. Volunteers from the exhibit have served on the organizing committee including Paul Papineau, Roger Petit, Sue Bernier, Carolyn Sloat, Jacques Staelen, Jr., William Marrah, Phillip Danese, Julien Mitchell, Raymond Bacon, and Anne Conway.