RI National Guard pulls out of Columbus Day parades, Government shutdown to blame
By: Melissa Randall
A fresh coat of red, white and green paint is striped across Atwells Ave. in Providence's Federal Hill neighborhood. City residents are ready to celebrate Columbus Day with the annual parade.
"It's a family tradition. It's a city tradition," said Paul Dixon of Providence.
There are many participants, but a crowd favorite has long been the Rhode Island National Guard.
"They're the people that make the sacrifices that the rest of us don't," said John Morookian of Providence. "They're special people."
This year the soldiers won't be marching. The National Guard was forced to make the difficult decision, and chose to pull out of parades across the state this holiday weekend. The government shutdown put the soldiers in a financial vice. They don't have enough money to pay the guardsmen and women for their time or to even buy fuel for the vehicles.
"Should a natural disaster or man made disaster occur in Rhode Island we need to prioritize our mission for the preservation of life and property for the citizens of Rhode Island," said Lt. Col. Peter Perente, spokesperson for the R.I. National Guard.
As many as a dozen parades will be affected. Residents are outraged.
"That's a national travesty. And a governmental shame, and as a people I don't think we should stand for it," said Dixon.
Even if the soldiers wanted to volunteer and march on their own, it's not allowed by the military.
"It's something we look forward to annually, and it really is unfortunate we can't do it all," said Perente.
The National Guard has already ready received as many as 15 requests for appearances at Veterans Day festivities next month. Right now those are up in the air.