McShawn’s honors veterans past and present

Posted 5/23/12

There’s a new veterans memorial in Cranston where colorful flags are flying from most service branches of the United States Armed Forces. These handmade wooden plaques, emblazoned with each …

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McShawn’s honors veterans past and present


There’s a new veterans memorial in Cranston where colorful flags are flying from most service branches of the United States Armed Forces. These handmade wooden plaques, emblazoned with each branch’s logo, are on display in the new brick patio at McShawn’s Pub and were revealed at a dedication ceremony Sunday.

“Maybe they should call this McShawn’s Pub Flags of Fame,” said James D’Amore, who served in the 82nd Airborne of the U.S. Army from 1981-1987. “This is special – the nice thing is that it’s for all veterans, living and deceased.”

Robert DiPippo had the distinction of putting up the first flag plaque in honor of Lance Corporal Frank Bosco, who was killed on June 2, 1969 during the Vietnam War. He was just 19 years old.

DiPippo described the event as “special.”

“For me, it helped me bring my buddy back to life,” he said.

DiPippo played in a band called Why Nots with Bosco.

“We did all the big dances ... the La Salle Canteen, Mount Pleasant High Jam Sessions back in 1967 and ’68. I go to the North Burial Ground five or six times a year to pay my respects to Frank. Now, I can come here.”

The same holds true for loved ones and family members of nearly six dozen servicemen, most of whom were on hand for Sunday’s official dedication ceremony and who each had a hand in affixing a plaque to the display rafters in the patio.

“We have over 50 flags,” said Peter Smith, a retired Cranston Police officer who initiated the program with Mike Blackwood and McShawn’s owners Sean and Kevin Holley.

According to Smith, people from all over Rhode Island learned of the program and donated $10 for each of the wooden plaque flags that were handmade by Smith. The dedication ceremony began with the Frank Bosco dedication and was completed Sunday because, as Smith explained, they wanted to hold the event before Memorial Day, when many families go away for the weekend.

“One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the Retired Military Police Association at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, N.C.,” Smith said. “That’s a non-profit organization that sponsors youth programs, camps and military charities.”

The ceremony featured Bagpiper Mike Stone of the Providence Firefighters Fife & Drum Corps and the Rhode Island Highlanders playing the official service songs of the armed forces, as each of the plaques were hung up on the rafters.

“Of the 52 plaques that were hung, there are 10 for guys whose fathers were in World War II and are now deceased,” Smith said, his voice cracking with emotion. “But we’ve got one longtime Cranston resident who was in the Navy who is here and will watch his flag being hung up.”

That was 85-year-old Irwin Shulkin, who went into the United States Navy when he was just 17 years old. He served for two years aboard the USS Amphitrite (ARL 29), a landing craft repair ship that served the Navy in such places as Okinawa, Guam, China and Japan during World War II.

Paul C. Reed, a retired lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps who did two tours in Vietnam and also helped organize the ceremony, presented Shulkin with a special Rhode Island Senate citation.

“This was wonderful,” said Danny Lowinger, Shulkin’s son-in-law who was on hand with his wife Lori and son Nicholas for the special honor. “He never looked for any recognition. These guys put it out there for our country. Today is really special; guys who were generations apart connected here today.”

Sunday’s special ceremony did, in fact, cover generations of service people and their families.

Take Tiffany Giblin, for example. She put up a plaque for the father she never knew.

“She was just a baby when her father was killed in the Beirut bombing in 1984,” Smith said. “She’s married to [co-organizer] Mike Blackwood’s son Justin and they have two young babies.”

More emotion surfaced when Moe Szarko, a mixologist at McShawn’s, took his turn to hang a flag plaque in memory of his late uncle and former pilot Joseph E. Szarko, who was shot down over Germany in World War II.

Maria Gunson and her son Mike put up a plaque for her husband, who died in a car crash 18 years ago.

“Mike was just a baby back then,” Smith said of when the former CPD officer Mike Gunson was killed. “His plaque will be between two Cranston Police officers who he worked with at the time of his death.”

Smith encouraged other fraternal and service organizations, and even businesses, to support the program. For more information, stop by or call McShawn’s Pub at 942-9747.


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