Saluting Our Veterans with a flair found only in Rhode Island

By Jennifer Bray









Normally in November, thousands of people head to downtown Providence to watch WaterFire’s Salute to Veterans event. The moving art exhibit, features 100 bonfires scattered along nearly a mile of river, paying tribute to our veterans.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic has put the WaterFire season on hold. However, there was still a 2020 WaterFire Salute to Veterans, it was held online on November 14th on WaterFire Providence’s Facebook Live and Youtube channels and will also be broadcast on Rhode Island PBS.

National Grid was proud to help sponsor the program. “It is challenging for nonprofits like WaterFire Providence to sustain ourselves right now, so we are incredibly grateful that National Grid continues to invest in the community by supporting initiatives like this,” said Peter Mello, Managing Director and Co-CEO of WaterFire Providence. “It’s great to have National Grid as a WaterFire Providence partner as we pivot our activities to meet our mission of creating art and events that make a real difference in people’s lives and in our community.”

The presentation was in partnership with the State of Rhode Island, the Providence VA Healthcare Systems and PREVENTS, the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide. The pre-recorded video was a chance salute our nations veterans and active-duty military personnel. It was also a chance to amplify awareness of the ongoing mental health crisis and ongoing suicide of our veterans.

“In our honoring of veterans during this event, we are focusing on the mental health and wellness of the veteran and their families. Only through this focus can we assist in mitigating these struggles to provide for a healthier lifestyle,” said WaterFire Salute to Veterans Committee co-chairs Dora Vasquez-Hellner and Ted Williams.

There was an inspiring message from Director of the Rhode Island Department of Veterans Affairs Kasim Yarn, who lit fires in braziers at the basin and told Veterans they would get the support they need for their mental health. Other taped messages from  Gov. Gina Raimondo, Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rep. David Cicilline and Rep. Jim Langevin were also part of the event.

There was a spirited rendition of the National Anthem played by the Rhode Island Army National Guard, previous lighting ceremonies from earlier Veterans events, a video celebrating America’s Greatest Generation on the 75th anniversary and other many other performances.

“This will be our 8th annual WaterFire Salute to Veterans and we believe that continuing popular events that honor and celebrate our community heroes is more important than ever during these extraordinary pandemic times,” Mello said.

National Grid is proud to support our Veterans. This year we’re continuing the tradition of awarding National Grid Challenge Coins to National Grid veterans. Challenge coins are used extensively in the military as a way to recognize performance and service. Custom printed National Grid coins were distributed last year to all veterans. If you are a veteran and did not receive one last year, or if you are a new hire to National Grid this year, please reach out to If you would like to read more about our National Grid Veterans and how they keep our gas and electric systems operating safely every day, please visit

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