June 2, 2010
All text and photos by: Jennifer Cowart
Flag First: Two dozen student flag holders marched in and lined both sidewalks facing
Gansett Avenue during the hour-long ceremony.
In a tradition dating back to World War II, the students, staff and community came together at Hugh B. Bain Middle School on Friday to remember alumni who have given their lives in service to the country.
“Eighty years young, Hugh B. Bain has become a leader in the Cranston Public Schools and in our state,” Principal Tom Barbieri said. “Today’s event is one example of this. The Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Affairs has recognized our tradition by awarding us the Rhode Island Patriotic Award.”
The Reverend Bob Bailey led the group in the Invocation. During his prayer, he stated that memory is what allows people to connect to those who have died, emphasizing the importance of gathering on Memorial Day to remember those lives lost.
The Bain Concert Choir sang throughout the ceremony, performing the “Star Spangled Banner” and later the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “God Bless America.”
Bain student Alexander Corvese recognized the importance of Memorial Day during his introductory remarks.
“Memorial Day is a time for reflection and gratitude,” he said. “This program started as a dedication of trees for the men lost in World War II. As more and more men were lost, this tradition continued.”
Following Corvese’s speech, Bain faculty member Tracy Wasilewski and her class performed Faith Hill’s song, “There You’ll Be” in sign language.
Follow the signs: Tracy Wasilewski leads her class in signing
Faith Hill's song, "There You'll Be."
Mayor Allan Fung echoed the patriotic sentiments of school staff, adding that he was impressed with the school’s dedication to the holiday.
“I’d first like to commend all of the students, Tom, the staff and all who honor and continue this tradition,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to remember lives of those who have walked these hallowed halls, but have gone on and made the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we can continue to have the freedoms that we enjoy.”
Fung went on to say, “Their honors and memories will always continue on in all of our hearts. We will never forget their ultimate sacrifice and I ask each and every one of you not to take the liberties and freedoms we all have for granted.”
A common theme that ran through many of the student speeches was the shared experience they had with these soldiers.
“Today, Memorial Day, is a day to stop and think. The soldiers we remember today went to this school. They were students here. They changed classes; they opened our lockers. We celebrate them this Memorial Day,” said eighth-grader Ivy Swinski.
Superintendent Peter Nero, a former Bain student, reflected on his memories of the school’s Memorial Day Ceremony.
“I first experienced this as you did today, as a 12-year-old young man who had moved from Providence to Cranston. As the generations pass, the tradition continues,” he said.
The traditional ceremony continued with a recitation of the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution followed with a prayer given by Reverend Francis W. O’Hara.
Bain student Emily Ellinwood gave the Roll Call of the Dead, calling out the names of all of the former Bain students who have given their lives in service, while a drum roll accompanied her.
As she did so, fellow students Anne Sinapi, Tianna Ugarte, Lauren McDonnell and Carley Rotenberg put one carnation for each name into a memorial wreath.
The Rhode Island National Guard did an honorary three-gun salute, which was followed by a playing of “Taps.”
An emotional Michael Traficante was the final speaker, bringing greetings from the Cranston School Committee. A Korean War veteran, Traficante tried to maintain his composure as he spoke to the crowd.
“We, as Americans, are sometimes prone to making light of ceremonies like this or symbols of our freedom, like the flag. We salute the Bain community for perpetuating this tradition,” he said. “It’s a realistic fact that it is the American soldier, not the press, who has given us our freedom of the press. It is the American soldier, not the poet, who has given us our freedom of speech.”
Traficante spoke emphatically to the students he faced, passing along a most important message.
“Please don’t ever lose sight of our great history and our great nation,” he said. “If you truly enjoy the freedoms we have today, you thank an American soldier today and every opportunity you have.”