Korean War veteran gets second chance for a First Salute with grandson

By Ethan Hartley
Posted 5/11/23

A surprise at the Rhode Island Veteran's Home in Bristol enabled a grandfather to honor his grandson as he originally envisioned.

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Korean War veteran gets second chance for a First Salute with grandson


When Chris Rego graduated from Norwich University as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in late April, there was someone special missing from the audience.

His grandfather, James C. Rego, a veteran who had endured two attacks on his base while stationed in Korea and would retire after attaining the rank of Senior Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, had broken his hip in 2021 and had begun battling dementia symptoms, making the trip impossible.

Although Chris had so badly wanted his grandfather to be the one to give him his Silver Dollar Salute — an historic military tradition where a newly commissioned officer presents a silver dollar to a veteran in their life who has most influenced and encouraged them, and presents them their first salute — it just wasn’t in the cards that day.

But Chris’s family hatched a backup plan. They would hold a surprise Silver Dollar Salute at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol, where James Rego resides.

“This was kind of a way to celebrate that moment and for him to be able to say thank you to his grandfather for being that mentor and giving him that guidance to get to where he is,” said Erin Yarbough, Chris’s cousin and a marketing professional and photographer who captured the touching ceremony on Sunday following church service.

Yarbough said in a recent interview how her grandfather retains a nearly photographic memory of his time in the service, and how much the moment clearly meant to him as he passed a generational torch to a new era of military service in the family.

“They’ve always been close,” she said of Chris and James. “It was really a special moment, and for all the vets to be able to witness it and welcome this new lieutenant into their fold. It was just a great, feel-good story.”

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