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Rhode Island National Guard Living Memorial Care and Maintenance Fund
By Jean Cohoon / April 13, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...
Along the tree-lined Memorial Boulevard of the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter stands the only memorial to the National Guard of Rhode Island. The focal point of the memorial is a six and a half foot tall bronze Minuteman atop a five foot granite base. It is surrounded by three granite walls, six granite benches, and 2,600 engraved paver bricks.

The living memorial, which pays tribute to the 380 year history of dedicated citizen soldiers, is a gift to Rhode Island from the Rhode Island National Guard (RING) Retirees Association. A nonprofit organization, the Retirees Association was formed in 1996 from Rhode Island Army and Air National Guard retirees and today has more than 650 members.

“It came to our attention that we didn’t have anything in the state to recognize the Guard,” says CSM (ret) Bill O’Mara, president of the RING Retirees Association, with LTC (ret) Bob Urquhart, vice president, adding, “With the Guard, it’s always been our motto to get it done and we did, and we worked with some great people on this living memorial.”

From CMS (ret) Paul Vona “whose vision became the final layout for the memorial” to stone mason Jack Afonzo “who did everything to help us”, and from Capt (ret) Dave Gray “our marketing and graphics guru” to CSM (ret) Tom Rezendes who provided material and labor for the site, Bill and Bob agree, “People came out of the woodwork to help us.”

At the September 2012 dedication ceremony, Bob told ceremony attendees, “It’s been my privilege to be part of this committee and organization which has built this living memorial to our brethren…The memorial is a testament to our military lives; that can-do attitude that is so indicative of the R.I. National Guard.”

The $250,000 cost of the memorial was funded, in part, by the sale of engraved bricks, a sale that continues today to supplement this care and maintenance Fund. “By working with the Foundation, we know that even after we’re gone, there will be funds to take care of the memorial. Preserving this tribute to the Guard is important to us,” Bill acknowledges.
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