“Don’t look up because you don’t need to, It’s not gonna rain on our parade.”
Bristol 4th of July General Chairman Ray Lavey offered that hopeful phrase at the start of Patriotic Exercises under steadily darkening skies outside Colt Memorial School Friday morning. But by the end of the ceremony, umbrellas were popping open and spectators were running for cover as a torrential downpour dampened the event.
“I’ll start talking a little faster,” Major General Kevin McBride, adjutant general of the RI National Guard, said as lightning flashed and thunder rumbled overhead. He couldn’t talk quite fast enough as a downpour began to fall midway through his Patriotic Address. Still, he soldiered on, paying tribute to American soldiers defending our freedom around the world.
General McBride recalled his time seeing in Iraq during the war on terror, where he commanded Rhode Island’s 43rd Military Police Brigade. Among his missions was overseeing the closure of the infamous Abu Ghraib Detention Facility, moving as many as 14,000 prisoners. McBride spoke of the dedication of soldiers around the world, specifically mentioning Michael Andrade, a Bristol man who was among the first Rhode Island casualties in the war on terror.
Earlier during Patriotic Exercises, Bristol native Anne Lero was presented with the Longest Traveled Award, which each year honors the former Bristolian who travels the farthest to attend the 4th of July celebration. Ms. Lero traveled more than 7,000 miles from Bangladesh, where she works at the U.S. embassy. She received a U.S. flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol building.
The annual Hattie Brown Award, given to a Bristolian who shows the same spirit of charity and community service former 4th of July Committee member Hattie Brown was known for, was presented to Roy Leffingwell, owner of Leffingwell Garage on Metacom Avenue. A prolific community servant, Mr. Leffingwell has served as coach, Boy Scout leader and mentor to Bristol youth for more than 30 years. He serves as a major in the Bristol Train of Artillery and can frequently be seen at public events throughout town. Read his full bio here.
“Our country was founded on neighbors helping neighbors,” Mr. Leffingwell said. “If everyone gave a little bit of themselves, it would go a long way toward keeping our nation strong.”