EXETER, R.I. (WPRI) — On Memorial Day, we remember those who gave their lives during service to the nation.

One Portuguese-American veteran told 12 News everyone buried at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter has one thing in common: they served the same country, but their background and ethnicity are different.

World War II veteran Arthur Medeiros, 102, knows freedom isn’t free and remembers vividly serving in Belgium at the Battle of the Bulge.

“It’s something you don’t forget,” he said. “It was very cold. It was always below zero. It wasn’t nice. I think we had two enemies, we had the Germans and the weather. A lot of the boys that got wounded, a lot of them before the first aid got to them, they froze to death. That’s how cold it was.”

Medeiros says his secret to living a long life is by having a positive attitude but Memorial Day is always difficult.

“It’s a little emotional,” he said.

At the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, all ethnicities are on display except one, but not for much longer. A memorial honoring Portuguese-American veterans, like Medeiros, is set to be unveiled on Veterans Day in November.

The site will also honor Michael Andrade, who was killed in Iraq in 2003 at the age of 28.

Andrade’s mother, Maria, was so proud of her son and his sacrifice for his country that she too is now a Portuguese-American. She got her U.S. citizenship after his death.

“He would be completely honored. He was a proud Portuguese boy. Michael loved to represent himself in the community, and also Portuguese in anything, in our church, always involved,” Fatima Andrade Milhomens, Andrade’s sister, explained.

Korean War veteran Bill Rogers’ brother is buried at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery and his brothers served in World War II and the Vietnam War. His father, John, also served in World War I.

“It’s nice to be able to come here and see this and recall those that served the country along with those other nationalities,” he said.

Pride in being American was instant for John’s grandparents who changed their last name from Rocha to Rogers when they came to the United States from the Azores.

Rhode Island Day of Portugal President Ana Dos Reis Couto came up with the idea to have a memorial for Portuguese-Americans while volunteering at the cemetery a few years ago. She got the cemetery’s approval in early 2020.

“I think it’s something that we really needed to represent us to all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for all of us,” she explained. “A week later, I get an email, ‘oh, by the way, there’s someone else that’s interested and has the same idea. And his name is Father Victor Silva.'”

Together they have fundraised and hired architect Sid Silveira whose design represents each branch of the military, as well as Portugal.

“The Portuguese cross. To me, as like my whole life growing up and all throughout history, it’s been a prominent fixture, it represents Portugal in many facets over the years,” Silveira said.

They have only raised about $1,400 of their $85,000 goal.