Memorial Day ceremony set for Monday in Exeter

Voice of Democracy essay contest winner is featured speaker during program at Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery

By: - May 26, 2023 3:17 pm

Taps is performed at the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter on Memorial Day on May 30, 2022. (Courtesy of Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services)

A Burrillville teenager will be the featured speaker at the state’s 49th Annual Memorial Day ceremony taking place Monday at the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter.

Elizabeth Cote, 17, a junior at La Salle Academy in Providence, is the recipient of Rhode Island’s Voice of Democracy essay contest, a scholarship program sponsored by the VFW. Cote will read her essay, titled “The Constant of the Country,” during the program commemorating the men and women who have died while in military service.

The Gold Star Family Memorial dedication at the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter is shown on May 15, 2022. (Courtesy of Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services)

The State of Rhode Island’s 49th Annual Memorial Day Ceremony takes place Monday, May 29, at 1 p.m. at the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery, 301 South County Trail, Exeter.

“When people realize that the person they are talking to is either an active-duty soldier or a veteran, they almost automatically say, ‘Thank you for your service,’” Cote wrote in her essay initially submitted to VFW Post 6342 in North Smithfield.

“Why are they saying this? Is it out of true thankfulness or is it out of beholden? Most people don’t even know what being in the military truly entails. The distance, physically and emotionally, from your family and friends is unbearable. The fear due to the risk you’re taking by being in the military and the memories that follow out of duty. Not a lot of people can fully grasp these concepts but a veteran can. The mental solitude is one that cannot be matched. They do so much for us yet we do not even have the ability to be entirely grateful to them.”

Cote is the daughter of Tanja Cote and Alan Cote. Her father retired from the U.S. Army as a sergeant major after 28 years of service.

All four of Rhode Island’s congressional delegates and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, Secretary of State Gregg Amore and General Treasurer James Diossa will deliver remarks during the ceremony. Matos will lay a ceremonial wreath with Gold Star family members after Cote recites her essay.

The 88th Army Band of the Rhode Island National Guard will perform taps and a service music medley for the ceremony. 

Rhode Island National Guard Chaplain Lt. Col. Tim Bourquin will give the invocation and benediction.

Gov. Dan McKee, who is vacationing out of state with his family this week and was expected to return to Rhode Island on Monday, is unable to attend the ceremony, according to his office.

McKee has directed U.S. and Rhode Island flags at all state agencies and buildings to be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon on Monday in observation of Memorial Day. Flags should return to full-staff at noon.

McKee issued the following statement:

“On Memorial Day, it is imperative for us as Rhode Islanders to stand together in appreciation for the dedication and sacrifice of the brave service members who defended our nation and protected our freedoms. We should all take a moment to recognize them, and their families and loved ones, for their tremendous sacrifice for our state and nation. They are our heroes, and they represent the very best of Rhode Island and the United States. Let us ensure their sacrifices were not in vain, and never take them, or their service to our nation, for granted.”

For more information, visit the State of Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services website.


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Janine L. Weisman
Janine L. Weisman

Rhode Island Current Editor-in-Chief Janine L. Weisman served as a reporter and editor during her 25-year career in the newsroom of The Newport Daily News. She is an adjunct journalism faculty member at Roger Williams University.