Veterans have their day in Westerly-Pawcatuck

U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran Rick Muller of the Vietnam Veterans of America leads the annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Day parade with a folded up flag Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.
U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran Rick Muller of the Vietnam Veterans of America leads the annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Day parade with a folded up flag Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo

Veterans have their day in Westerly-Pawcatuck

Westerly — Davy Michaels sat beneath a cold powder blue sky Saturday morning with a small American flag in her hand. She watched as hundreds of people marched through Pawcatuck and into Westerly to honor all who have served in the military.

"I'm glad I can still be here," the 92-year-old Michaels, who served as an Army nurse in Australia, the Philippines and New Guinea during World War II, said. "I come from a small town in Wisconsin, so I love my parades."

The Veterans Day parade, organized by the Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Board of Control, paid tribute to all veterans and included a brief ceremony at the World War I monument in Pawcatuck.

"No man or woman who has worn the uniform of the United States military will go unrecognized," Dan Lapointe, a Vietnam War veteran and chairman of the Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Board of Control, said. "When I came back from Vietnam, we were thrown in the closet and forgotten. But now we are all glad to be able to celebrate this holiday with all of our veterans."

As those in the parade marched their way from the Pawcatuck Shopping Center on South Broad Street, through downtown Pawcatuck and into Westerly, they passed dozens of other veterans on the sidewalks.

"It makes me very happy to see all of this. In the past there used to be very little on Veterans Day," Dennis Thibodeau, an 81-year-old who served at the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton and now lives in Pawcatuck, said. "It's nice to see the young people out here, too. The next generation has to learn about this. If people don't show up for these parades, it won't mean anything."

Among those who lined the parade route were Kelly Clark and her children Nick, 6, and Molly, 4. The Clarks, of Stonington, stood along High Street in Westerly holding a sign that read, "Real heros don't wear capes, they wear dog tags."

Nick and Molly's father, Groton native and U.S. Army Specialist Kevin Clark, marched with the color guard at the front of the parade.

"One of the guys from the VFW came up to me and said that when his men saw the sign, they all straightened up a little bit," Kelly Clark said. "We just wanted to do something to thank all of the service men and women."

Clark said she plans to donate the sign to the Westerly Armory Museum.

Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek also marched in the parade and said it is an event he makes a point to attend each year.

"This is a great tribute to all of our veterans, and it's so great to see so many people out today to thank our veterans for their dedication and service," Haberek said. "Every year, we have more and more veterans getting involved, and more and more of the younger veterans are getting involved, too."

During a brief post-parade ceremony in the Westerly Armory which included a playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Amazing Grace," veterans and local officials spoke of the meaning of Veterans Day.

"To all you veterans out there, I cannot thank you enough," Ken Burton, chairman of Westerly's American Flag Fund Committee, said. "You fought for our freedom to be out here today."

After the Westerly Band played a few patriotic numbers and a priest offered a prayer for all soldiers, Lapointe closed the ceremony with a short speech to the veterans who had gathered in the armory.

"We are brothers in arms, and let's not forget that," Lapointe said. "Our freedom was fought for and won by us veterans. Let's make sure our country never forgets that."

c.young@theday.com

Members of the Rhode Island Shriners drive go-carts of all shapes and sizes during the annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Day Parade Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.
Members of the Rhode Island Shriners drive go-carts of all shapes and sizes during the annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Day Parade Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
Cub Scouts Pack 2 of Westerly carry a U.S. flag as they march in the annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Day Parade Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.
Cub Scouts Pack 2 of Westerly carry a U.S. flag as they march in the annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Day Parade Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
U.S. Air Force veteran Rick Muller of Vietnam Veterans of America leads the annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Day parade Saturday from the Pawcatuck Shopping Center on South Broad Street, through downtown Pawcatuck and into Westerly.
U.S. Air Force veteran Rick Muller of Vietnam Veterans of America leads the annual Westerly-Pawcatuck Veterans Day parade Saturday from the Pawcatuck Shopping Center on South Broad Street, through downtown Pawcatuck and into Westerly. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
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