November 30, 2023

East Providence Honors 100-year-old WW II Veteran

Staff Sergeant Jean Kesner, US Marine Corps, Lays Wreath at Memorial


The City of East Providence held its annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony on Saturday, November 11th by honoring East Providence Veteran, 100-year-old Jean Kesner. Kesner, a lifelong East Providence resident, is a World War II veteran, serving as a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant. Mayor Bob DaSilva gave Sergeant Kesner a key to the city and invited her to place a memorial wreath along with Army veteran and US Senator Jack Reed at the Garden of Flags Memorial on Veteran’s Memorial Parkway. Reed and other dignitaries lauded the career of Kesner. "Her extraordinary commitment to the nation, leading the safety and security of East Providence, she joined the United States Marine Corps in World War II and served with distinction and then continued to serve as a leader in the Postal Service here in Rhode Island,” remarked Reed.

“Staff Sergeant Kesner served to protect us, to protect our nation, so that all of us can continue to maintain our way of life, so that we may enjoy the freedoms that our nation provided," said Mayor Bob DaSilva. “She also was a leader in the US Postal Service for thirty years.

“Free a man to fight,” was a message that resonated with Jean Laidler of Sutton Avenue in East Providence as the United States fought WWII on two fronts. On her 20 birthday in April of 1943, she walked across the street from her secretarial position at Rhode Island Hospital Trust Bank in Providence to enlist in the United States Marine Corps Woman’s Reserve. Three days later she was sworn in and headed to Hunter College in New York for basic training. Next was Camp LeJeune, North Carolina for NCO training. Jean graduated as a Corporal and worked as an administrative person in the Sergeant Major’s Office.

The Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was established in July of 1942, so when Jean enlisted it had been in existence for just nine months. Women did not participate in combat, however their presence in the service provided much needed support on the home front, releasing men for combat duty. The women worked in many capacities including administrative staff, truck mechanics, laboratory technicians, radio operators and training to mention a few.  Ms. Kesner was promoted to Staff Sergeant at the end of 1943 and was a drill instructor for new female recruits. She was honorably discharged at the end of the war.

After WWII, Kesner returned to East Providence to raise her family. She was one of the first women veterans to be hired by the U.S. Post Office. The new state-of-the-art Turnkey Building was just completed and Kesner worked there for the next 30 years, retiring as a Postal Trainer in 1990.

Kesner’s six children: Michael, Bonnie, Jill, Becky, Karen and Peter beam with pride each and every Veteran’s Day as they honor their mother, her patriotism, bravery and selfless act of stepping forward when her country called.

Many veterans were in attendance and other speakers on Saturday included US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Governor Dan McKee, US Congressman-elect Gabe Amo, RI Secretary of State Gregg Amore, State Senator Robert Britto, City Council President Bob Rodericks and State Senator Pamela Lauria.

Also participating in the ceremony were members of the City Council, the Bristol Fife & Drums, representatives of Veterans Inc., Troop 55 Scouts, East Providence Police & Fire Honor Guards and members of the police and fire departments. The National Anthem was performed by Andrea Vargas and Taps was played by EPHS student James Cassamas.


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