WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Outside of Warwick City Hall sit 29 pairs of boots ─ a solemn tribute representing Rhode Islanders killed in the line of duty.
“These are our brothers and sisters,” said Erik Wallin, executive director of Operation Stand Down Rhode Island, which helps homeless and at-risk veterans.
The boots will be displayed in front of city hall Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Each is adorned with a flag and placard, sharing the story of a veteran killed in action in the Global War on Terror post 9/11.
Wallin said this not only honors the fallen, but it means a lot to their families.
“The one thing that they fear most is that their children, their loved ones, their brothers and sisters, that they’ll just kind of fade into history,” Wallin said. “For them, having somebody come up and recognize that loved one and the sacrifice that they made really helps them through the process.”
This is the first time the 29 pairs of boots have been displayed in Warwick.
“Of course, we were honored to have it here,” Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi said. “We have a lot of veterans in Warwick and I bet city hall is going to be a very busy place over the weekend.”
This display is leading up to the larger Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial, where 7,010 boots representing fallen service members will return to Fort Adams State Park in Newport on Memorial Day weekend.
After a smaller ceremony in 2020, this year it will be back in full force.
“It was a difficult decision to forego the full display last year due to the pandemic,” Boots on the Ground Founder Dee DeQuattro said. “The display is a stark reminder of a war that has raged on for over two decades and the true sacrifice of the men and women who serve our country.”
In 2020, Operation Stand Down RI released a video presentation featuring the 29 Rhode Islanders killed in the line of duty.
The Boots on the Ground for Heroes was launched by Operation Stand Down RI in 2016.
“No matter how busy we are in our lives, we need to stop, pause and take measure of what others have sacrificed so that we can go on and enjoy the freedoms of this country,” Wallin said.
The full memorial is scheduled to be open from May 28-30 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Memorial Day and on May 31 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.