On Sunday, a small group of Bristol’s fire and rescue department, their friends, family and a few elected officials gathered on the corner of Church Street and High Street to celebrate a simple, yet significant act that the members of Dreadnaught Fire Company haven’t been able to do for quite a long time. While the notes of “Reveille,” as played by trumpeter Justin Teixeira, pierced the quiet neighborhood, Dreadnaught firefighter Water “Rocky” Monrue had the honor of raising the American flag above the town’s fire station, an act that reflects the honor of duty that all first responders share.
“We have been without a flagpole and have been unable to fly our nation’s flag for at least eight years,” Captain A.J. Medeiros, commanding officer of Dreadnaught Company, said as part of the ceremony.
In 2004, he said, the original, wooden flagpole that held the country’s banner from 1900 became rotted and could no longer be used. Because the company could not afford to replace the pole, the flag was not displayed on the station.
To help get the American flag back up over the Dreadnaught Company, J-Boats of Newport donated a sailing mast as suitable substitute. Mr. Monrue took on the project of converting the mast into a flagpole, a project that took “countless hours” of re-design, preparation and fabrication. On top of the new pole, Mr. Monrue secured the sculptured eagle that was salvaged from the original flagpole, effectively linking the past with the present.
Recognizing the hours of painstaking work that Mr. Monrue volunteered to construct the flagpole, Capt. Medeiros graciously thanked him, along with Mrs. Monrue “for allowing him to work on it in the garage.”
Capt. Medeiros remarked that the flag is more than “a piece of cloth varying in size, shape, color and design.” It’s “also a symbol of hope, freedom, strength and courage,” he said. “The flag is not just a symbol, but a feeling and a personality.”
Calling the American flag a symbol of sacrifice made by those past and present, Capt. Medeiros said he wants the Dreadnaught’s flagpole to be an extension of that symbolism, in memory of the company’s past members.
“May we look up and be reminded of their sacrifices and be grateful for what we have,” he said.
With the flag billowing in the breeze overhead, those present saluted or stood with their hands over their hearts, listening as Victoria Carroll sang the National Anthem.
After the ceremony, guests toured the historical fire station and viewed the artifacts inside that depict over a century of the fire company’s history and traditions. Dreadnaught Fire station is home to Ladder One and Truck Six. It also houses Engine Four and Marine One.
“Our past members are never forgotten,” said Capt. Medeiros.
Among those the company pays homage to are Michael Andrade, the first Rhode Islander to die in battle fighting in Iraq. A photo of Mr. Andrade is displayed on a table alongside a framed American flag. On a nearby wall, the company charter is draped in a black cloth in memory of Fred Serbst, a former member of the company who recently died after battling cancer.