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World War II Memorial Fund
By Jean Cohoon / January 9, 2019 /   Loading Disqus...

Nearly two decades ago, a small group of Rhode Islanders joined forces to create a lasting tribute to honor our state’s men and women who served during World War II. They formed the nonprofit World War II Commission of Rhode Island and set out to fulfill the mission “to finance, develop, and erect a monument in Providence, RI dedicated to World War II veterans.”

Funds were contributed by federal, state, and municipal governments, as well as from the general public, and the World War II Memorial was dedicated on Veteran’s Day in 2007. The monument - located in Providence’s Memorial Park adjacent to South Main Street – features the names of the 96,000 Rhode Islanders who fought in the War along with benches inscribed with the freedoms of speech and worship and freedoms from want and fear. The memorial’s centerpiece is a large rotunda with eight columns, one for each of the major campaigns of the War. Surrounding the structure are panels detailing the number of residents who served from each of Rhode Island’s 39 cities and towns.

Rather than resting on their laurels for successfully achieving the mission, Commission members re-defined their purpose. Lt. General Reginald Centracchio, chair of the Commission board of directors, explains, “First is maintenance; we want to maintain the integrity of the structure. Second, we want to have an educational component that will tell future generations the story of World War II. And third, we want the Park to include monuments from all wars to tell students the whole story that thousands of Rhode Islanders gave their lives to assure the freedoms that we have today.”

He notes that the Park presently pays tribute to World War I and II, Korea, and the Holocaust, but our more recent wars and conflicts, beginning with Vietnam, are not represented.

Of the decision to transfer their endowment to the Foundation, Aram Garabedian, vice chair of the Commission board, says, “The Rhode Island Foundation has a good track record, will preserve our funds, and is more widely known (to prospective supporters) than our name is.”

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