NOVEMBER 7, 2016, PROVIDENCE, R.I. (NNS) – Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, president of Naval War College, Newport, R.I., administered the ceremonial oath of enlistment to nine young men and women, who will be entering the sea services, during the 4th annual WaterFire Salute to Veterans ceremony, Nov. 5, at the State Administration Building.
Harley recited this John Paul Jones quote to the enlistees following their enlistment: “Sign on, young man, and sail with me. The stature of our homeland is no more than the measure of ourselves. Our job is to keep her free. Our will is to keep the torch of freedom burning for all. To this solemn purpose we call on the young, the brave, the strong, and the free. Heed my call, Come to the sea. Come Sail with me.”
WaterFire Providence is an internationally renowned artistic event that combines the lighting of wood fired braziers along the Providence River basin and music.
Harley spoke to over 250 veterans, family members, active duty and soon-to-be active duty, and elected officials assembled in the atrium of the R.I. Department of Administration Building Saturday.
He was joined in offering remarks by R.I. Gov. Gina Raimondo; Kasim Yarn, Director of the R.I. Office of Veterans Affairs; Former Army Captain and R.I. native Craig Mullaney, a Veteran of Afghanistan, West Point Graduate and author of “The Unforgiving Minute” and others.
Harley administered the oath to R.I. and Mass. youth entering the sea services and was followed by Brig. Gen. Christopher Callahan, Adjutant General and Commanding General of the Rhode Island National Guard, administering the ceremonial oath to an additional ten enlistees entering the R.I. Army and Air National Guard.
In addition to the new recruits, R.I. active duty and veterans representing each branch of the military were introduced to the audience.
Representing the Navy was Senior Chief Petty Officer Nathan Bissell, originally from Glocester, R.I. and currently assigned to the Center for Service Support onboard Naval Station Newport and representing the U.S. Marine Corps was Lt. Col. Matthew Palma, a Bristol, R.I. native assigned to Naval War College.
WaterFire Salute to Veterans is organized by a committee of volunteers from veteran organizations; Gold Star families; Naval Station Newport; R.I. National Guard; state and federal agencies; non-profit organizations and patriotic citizens.
This event has been growing in attendance annually and this year, with the good fortune of mild temperatures and clear skies, was a record breaker with well over 10,000 gathered throughout the basin area and along the river.
Gov. Raimondo, the daughter of a Navy veteran, also took time to focus on the young men and women committing to the military during her remarks. “No matter how long you serve, the branch you serve in or where you serve – you will always be welcomed home to Rhode Island and we will take care of you.”
This annual WaterFire includes the carrying of torches by hundreds of veterans, active duty and their family members in a procession that began at the R.I. Statehouse and ended along the basin itself just in time for sunset at 5:45 p.m.
Navy Band Northeast was joined by “The Governor’s Own” R.I. National Guard 88th Army Band for a joint ceremonial concert on center stage while the braziers were lit.
In addition to the ceremony and concert, there were Veterans resource tents set up along the river where vets and their families were able to obtain information and/or register for services and assistance with housing; health care; job searches; federal VA benefits; service animals; information on veterans organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other fraternal groups and more.
“We were able to make initial contact and register 50 previously unregistered veterans tonight – that was huge!” said Heather Oberg, Executive Assistant to the Director of the Providence, RI VA Medical Center.