On the Fourth of July, it’s the parade people line up for in Bristol, but shortly after 8:30 a.m., U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Robert O. Wray, Jr. etched his name into Bristol’s history as the town’s 228th patriotic speaker, delivering a message that echoes America’s promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Seated on the stage against the impressive backdrop of historical Colt School, Rear Admiral Wray, sat along with this year’s chief marshal, Lou Cirillo and his wife Susan, Hattie Brown award recipients, Hector Massa, town administrator, Tony Teixeira, members of the town council and several military dignitaries. With the temperature quickly rising into the 80s, many of those seated in folding chairs to observe the exercises quickly moved, seeking shelter from nearby shade trees.
In his address, Read Admiral Wray asked the audience to imagine life in Bristol in the 18th century, when soldiers named Miller and Coggeshall battled the British Army on the same ground where thousands came to watch the day’s festive events.
“British came up the bay in large ships looking for supplies,” he said.
After enduring cannon fire from the ships, then Governor Bradford negotiated with the British, who went away after taking 40 sheep, rather than the “200 sheep and 30 fatted cattle” they were demanding.
Then, in 1778, R. Admiral Wray said, despite the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “red coats walked through Warren into Bristol, burning 30 houses and buildings including St. Michael’s church.”
As Gov. Bradford negotiated to save Bristol, and St. Michael’s church was rebuilt into the thriving congregation it remains today, R. Admiral Wray recognized Americans’ resilience.
“Our time as patriots on the American stage is not over. The American experiment has proven to be the greatest bastion in the world. But it only works if we are dedicated to it,” he said.
R. Admiral Wray’s words and message received a standing ovation from an appreciative audience. As is tradition, the patriotic speaker was presented with a plaque to recognize his participation.