VETERANS DAY AT JOHNSTON MEMORIAL PARK: Free speech, a freedom worth exercising


Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena used part of his time at the lectern Wednesday morning to rail against elements of the Culture War.

“I’m very concerned with the so-called cancel culture that’s out there nowadays,” Polisena warned the crowd gathered for Johnston’s Veterans Day Recognition Ceremony. “I’m sure that this is probably one of the days that is their target. But we can’t allow that. Tell the cancel culture to go away. They want to get rid of all the days that we celebrate, all the days that we cherish. Really. So, I’m hoping that those so-called politicians in Washington wake up and stop catering to the cancel culture.”

Polisena labeled “those Washington politicians” a bunch of “frauds.”

“They have zero respect for our veterans and our military,” Polisena said. “Those people must be thrown out of office in next year’s election. They have no respect for this country, and have zero respect for our veterans; especially the men and women who wear uniforms and are protecting us each and every day.”

He praised the strength of the country’s fighting men and women.

“You know, the world is a very frightening place,” Polisena said. “But what keeps us strong is our enemies know that all the branches of our military are the best in the world, and would deliver a crushing defeat to our enemies if need be. For it is fear from our enemies that keeps our country strong. Our military are always ready; willing to defend our freedoms and defend our country, no matter where or when.”

Polisena speaks his mind, in private and in public. Free speech has long been one of his hallmarks.

“I want to thank our veterans past and present for what they have done,” Polisena said. “And for those who continue to protect us. America is America because of our veterans. Not because of those politicians in Washington, who embrace our flag only on days like Veterans Day, and then of course they have what we call convenient amnesia after.”

Johnston’s mayor, serving his final term, is almost never apologetic about speaking his mind.

“Because I’m allowed to say what I said earlier about the politicians in this country — this is a great country by the way, there’s no other better country,” he said. “That’s why people are coming in and fighting to come in.”

Following his initial remarks, the mayor handed off his spot on stage to a veteran who has dedicated his life to helping other veterans — former U.S. Air Force Captain Erik B. Wallin, executive director of Johnston’s Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI).

“We have called, very proudly, Johnston home for almost 25 years,” Wallin told the crowd. “Mayor, you said it best. We hear elected officials talk about never forget, or leave no veteran behind. Nice words, but useless when they’re not backed up by action.”

Wallin’s agency feels at home in Johnston, in large part due to the aid and attention paid to OSDRI by the town’s institutions.

“And I have to say, as an organization that serves over 2,500 veterans across this state, Mayor, the town of Johnston backs those words up every single day. It comes down from your office, and it runs through your chief of police, Chief Razza, Chief Lamb of the Fire Department, Chris Correia, DPW, Bob Parker, all the way down to every element of the municipality, they are here for our veterans. They are always here for Operation Stand Down, and thereby, by extension, you are serving the entire veteran community in the entire state. So thank you very much to all of you here in the town of Johnston.”

Next at the lectern, Jane Deptula, former commandant and New England Division Chaplain of the Department of RI Marine Corps League, discussed the history of the now century-old Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Marine Corps veteran reminded the crowd that the Tomb “turned 100 years old this month, November, 2021.”

“For the first time in nearly 100 years, as part of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration, the public will be able to walk on the unknown tomb plaza, and lay flowers in front of the Unknown Soldier, on 9 and 10 November,” Deptula said. “That was yesterday and today. This is a rare opportunity for the public to walk next to the tomb, a privilege otherwise given only to the sentinels of the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment, the Old Guard.”

Paying a visit to the Tomb is just one way Americans can show their gratitude to those who serve.


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