Local veterans remembered ahead of Memorial Day

Local veterans remembered ahead of Memorial Day

Madelyn Paquette, state president for Rhode Island Children of the Revolution, shares the history of Henrietta Drummond, the first Rhode Islander to make the ultimate sacrifice during World War I, before placing a flag on her memorial on Sunday. (Breeze photos by Nicole Dotzenrod)

PAWTUCKET – Many pass by the monument at the corner of Mineral Spring Avenue and Main Street in Pawtucket, but few stop to remember the person memorialized there.

This week, a small group sought to change that, holding a ceremony ahead of Memorial Day for U.S. Army nurse Henrietta Isabella Drummond, the first Rhode Islander to make the ultimate sacrifice during World War I.

Members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, joined by the Rev. Ken Postle of the Blackstone Valley Historical Society, shared Drummond’s story during the ceremony at Collyer Park on Sunday afternoon.

Drummond was born in Pawtucket in 1892, volunteering for the American Red Cross to follow her call to nursing. She was shipped off to Europe, working 15-hour days caring for sick and injured soldiers.

She became ill within a week of her arrival and succumbed to the infection, likely from typhoid fever or the Spanish flu, dying in October of 1919 in Nievers, France, at age 25 – the first R.I. woman to give her life serving her country during World War I.

“It’s not a waste of a life because she died so quickly or so young, because the impact she has is eternal to God,” Postle said. “She went to serve and gave herself to her country; her sacrifice is not a waste of a young life. It’s never a waste when you give all that you have.

“Nursing in World War I was exhausting, often dangerous work and the women who volunteered experienced the horrors of war firsthand,” said Madelyn Paquette, state president for Rhode Island Children of the Revolution.

“Nurses continue to serve today as role models, showing courage in the face of danger, kindness toward others and compassion for their service to their country. Nurses are not only fighting for the lives of their patients, but fighting for their own lives in the face of this current global pandemic,” she continued.

This year’s group of Beacon-Pole Hill and Pawtucket Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution included third-generation nurses and sisters Denise LaPrade and Monique Ryan.

After the ceremony honoring nurse Drummond, the small group headed to a nearby veterans memorial at Wilkinson Park to place flags at “Liberty Arming the Patriot,” an 1896 Civil War monument depicting a farmer abandoning his plow to take up arms.

Postle continued flagging across the Blackstone Valley this week, stopping at dozens of ceremonies.

He usually tries to bring in a scout groups or classrooms of students to place the flags, but this year limits on gatherings due to coronavirus have left him scrambling for help. Under the usual circumstances, Postle said he likes to encourage children to participate, “because it’s a chance to learn what our freedoms cost.”

He is looking for some volunteers to come to Pawtucket’s Oak Grove Cemetery on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. to help flag. With help, Postle said he can finish the effort in about an hour, but it would take closer to three to do it alone.

With or without help, Postle will be out rain or shine, stopping at thousands of veterans’ graves to place a flag and honor their service.

“When you do this work for a few yours it begins to tear at you emotionally. You can’t put these flags down and not think about the people buried there,” he said. “Whoever places the flag, I ask that they take a moment – read the name on the stone, if you can, and pause to remember the person there and the sacrifices they made.”

Paquette places a wreath on the Pawtucket memorial for Rhode Island’s first World War I casualty.
Denise LaPrade, Madelyn Paquette, Brenda Machado, Laurie McDonough Greaney and Monique Ryan, above, stand in front of “Liberty Arming the Patriot,” one of Pawtucket’s war memorials before placing flags to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.