The Ocean State dedicated the long overdue World War II Memorial today following a short parade, which began at the State House and ended at the Memorial site on South Main Street. It was a beautiful day to honor those who have served our nation with both valor and dedication and, though I have never served (or, perhaps, because I’ve never served), I thought it an obligation to attend the ceremony.

Many Rhode Islanders know the story of how funding has been lagging behind for a memorial to those who gave their lives in the second “war to end all wars” but lack of support for the project was not on the minds of those in attendance. The crowd was large, very much behind our troops, and appreciative of the vets who were there. The energy in the park and the stunning monument made me proud to be a Rhode Islander. I wish that I could say the same of the dedication ceremony itself.

I found myself reflecting on my belief that, had I been elected to Congress in 2006, I would not have joined the politicians on the rostrum. There is nothing partisan about my statement. Republicans and Democrats seemed equally eager to take the microphone and pander to the crowd of veterans and supporters. They were all equally mistaken that this was a day about them. I understand that this is the way that things are done. I understand that it is “the way we’ve always done it”, but enough is enough.

Had I been a sitting Congressman, I would have given up my seat behind the podium to someone who served during World War II and, instead of speaking to the folks in the crowd, I would have listened. I would have asked that the vet who took my seat  go to the microphone and tell the crowd a story about what the “greatest generation” faced as they stormed the beaches  at Normandy, as they fought in the Argonne, and as they flew missions over Midway. It was not a day to pander. It was a day to honor.

It was important to get this memorial up and for that, on behalf of the Ocean State, I thank Joseph Corrente and my friend Reggie Centracchio, who initiated the idea and Chaired the efforts respectively. I thank the donors who made things happen and I thank the contractors, many of whom donated their precious time. Mostly I thank the veterans of WW II, themselves. and that is who this day should have been about. Their numbers diminish by approximately 1000 per day nationwide and that is why, in the end, I chose not to stay until the end of the ceremony. You see, we have less and less opportunity every day to hear the stories; to learn the lessons. This was an opportunity to listen. I would have liked to have listened.