Lieutenant Government Elizabeth Roberts is hosting a care package drive this weekend to support Rhode Island soldiers. The initiative “Operation Holiday Cheer” is sending 350 care packages to soldiers serving overseas this holiday season. Anyone can bring donations to the Rhode Island National Guard Armory this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Spokesperson Maria Tocco said donations of simple things like powdered drink mix, coffee syrup, beef jerky, and batteries are received with gratitude by the troops.
A large group of Rhode Island National guardsmen is set to return from deployment Thursday and Friday.
About 120 members of the Air National Guard will return home; arriving at Quonset Point over the next two days. They’re members of the 143rd Airlift Wing unit, who’ve been stationed in South West Asia. They’ve been deployed for as many as six months, working as pilots, aircraft maintenance crews and support staff.
A popular Rhode Island air show will be back next spring after a one-year hiatus prompted by federal sequestration cuts.
The Rhode Island National Guard says its popular air show will be held May 17th and 18th. The Navy’s Blue Angels will be the headline act. It was cancelled at the last minute last year, disappointing many fans.
The show has been held annually since 1991 and draws thousands of spectators to the Quonset Air National Guard base. Last year was the only time since its founding it was not held.
The last Rhode Island National Guardsman who first served in Vietnam has retired. Cpt. Richard Gaudet has been serving his country on and off for more than 40 years.
Now retired, U.S. Army Captain Richard Gaudet first joined the Army as a 17-year-old, that was in 1971. He was part of an aviation support unit in Vietnam. He then joined the Army Reserves, then after 9-11 he re-enlisted working as a training instructor with two deployments to Afghanistan. Gaudet turns 60 soon, the age mandatory retirement kicks in.
“Operation Holiday Cheer” was officially launched Wednesday. The Lt. Governor’s Office, Rhode Island National Guard and several organizations and businesses are teaming up to send care packages to Rhode Island guardsmen overseas during the holidays.
Capt. Michael Calcagni got a care package last year. He said it makes difference when you’re away from family during the holidays. “However when you’re away one thing that is always uplifting, no matter what time of year, is mail call,” said Calcagni. “And when you can’t be home and mail brings home to you, it’s even better.”
The Rhode Island National Guard said it has had to cancel its participation in all of the Columbus Day events. That includes the Columbus Day parade on Federal Hill.
Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Parente said there are 15 events on the calendar for next month, including some for Veteran’s Day. He said if the partial federal shutdown stretches into Veterans Day, the National Guard will do what it can to have a presence.
Vietnam veterans were honored at a Statehouse ceremony marking the 52nd anniversary of the start of the war. One unit was singled out for recognition.
During the Vietnam War only a handful of National Guard troops were called up to serve in combat roles. Rhode Island National Guard’s 107th Signal Company was one of them. Warner Dauphinee of Scituate remembers the 12 month tour of duty this way:
“I didn’t want to be there. It was hot, uncomfortable,” said Dauphinee, “not a place I’d ever vacation that’s for sure.”
A state commission formed to preserve and expand defense-related businesses in Rhode Island holds its latest meeting Thursday.
The Defense Economy Planning Commission was created in 2010. The 25-member panel includes state legislators, as well as representatives of private businesses, the National Guard, chambers of commerce, and branches of state government.
As Rhode Island servicemen and women return from the front lines, state officials are searching for better ways to make sure they have the jobs, education and the health services they need to integrate back into civilian life. A new report out of the state senate urges the state to do a better job connecting veterans with jobs and services.
The state counts more than 70,000 veterans living in Rhode Island, and unemployment numbers show they have a higher rate of joblessness than their civilian counterparts.