NEWS

Vets students, faculty pay tribute to our veterans

Posted 5/25/22

By JOHN HOWELL

Happy birthday is not the song one would expect to sing at a Memorial Day observance at Warwick’s named in honor of our veterans. But that’s exactly what Warwick …

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NEWS

Vets students, faculty pay tribute to our veterans

Posted

By JOHN HOWELL


Happy birthday is not the song one would expect to sing at a Memorial Day observance at Warwick’s named in honor of our veterans. But that’s exactly what Warwick Veterans Middle School students did Tuesday morning as part of an observance that included a reading of the names of Rhode Islanders killed in action during the Vietnam War and the release of two white dove as music teacher George Landrie played taps.

Veterans were invited to attend, but many seats were empty as hundreds of students stood facing Principal Joseph Coffrey at the podium with officials at either side. Yet the ceremony had special meaning to the descendants of John Louis Keaney who died Dec. 28, 1944 when a kamikaze stuck SS John Burke, an ammunition ship off the Philippines.

His twin children John and Sondra had just turned two years old. Their mother, Carolell was faced with raising them. Sondra recalls what her mother went through.

“She kept us together. She played ball with John, and she played house with me. She devoted herself to us,” said Sondra.

The family came together for the Memorial Day observance that in large part was planned and executed by Kurt Keaney, son of John and a Veterans Memorial Middle School teacher. Kurt worked with fellow teacher Jamie Kilday to stage the event. 

Coffey invited retired sergeant Victor Butler, believed to be the last surviving member of the Tuskegee Airmen alive to attend the ceremony. The Black airmen made history fighting in World War II and leading to the desegregation of the military. Butler, who just turned 100, has been the subject of numerous stories.  He has been showered with thousands of cards from people across the country and foreign countries. 

Unfortunately, although Butler lives in Rhode Island , he could not attend Coffey explained. But that didn’t stop the assembly from singing to him.  

Mayor Frank Picozzi thanked the school for honoring our veterans. “They gave everything for us,” he said. Also offering remarks was School Committee Chair Judith Cobden who spoke about Memorial Day and it being a time to remember those who served our country.

Vets, Memorial Day observance

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