Medal of Honor recipient highlights Wreaths Across America event

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published December 11, 2017

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Who knew that a wreath could galvanize a community, a region or even a nation?

That’s exactly what has happened, especially in Michigan. The eighth annual Wreaths Across America event takes place locally Dec. 16. Guests will be welcomed starting at 10 a.m. at Fern Hill Country Club, 17600 Clinton River Road in Clinton Township, with a plaque presentation beginning around 10:30 a.m.

A noon ceremony will follow across the road at Resurrection Cemetery, 18201 Clinton River Road. Christina England will sing “God Bless America” at Fern Hill, and “The Star-Spangled Banner” later at Resurrection.

The American Legion, Knights of Columbus, Macomb County Sheriff’s Office and various scout troops will be on hand, accompanying a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps. Service members from all three military branches — along with World War II reenactors — will lay wreaths at the cemetery’s Veteran’s Memorial.

Mario Musotto, who conducts communication duties for the local committee, said the day’s events are looked forward to by many. 

In 2012, approximately 728 wreaths were laid at Resurrection. Three years later, that number jumped to a whopping 1,600 wreaths. More than 2,000 wreaths were already purchased this year prior to Thanksgiving.

It’s expected that approximately 2,700 wreaths will be laid out that day.

“It keeps growing,” Musotto said. “It’s amazing.”

A special guest speaker will be on the Resurrection grounds this year: Jim McCloughan, who received the Medal of Honor this year from President Donald Trump. 

McCloughan, from South Haven, served in Vietnam as a private first class, distinguishing himself by acts of gallantry in his call of duty between May 13 and 15 in 1969, while serving as a combat medic in Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, American Division.

The company air assaulted into an area near Tam Ky and Nui Yon Hill. On May 13, he sprinted 100 meters in the open, with complete disregard for his own safety, to rescue an injured comrade. He carried him to safety.

That same day, McCloughan — at the peril of an ambush by the North Vietnamese Army — led two other American soldiers into a safety trench. Even though he was wounded by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade, he ignored orders to stay back and extracted more wounded comrades on four different occasions.

Event organizer Karen Straffon personally knows McCloughan, and was even present in Washington D.C. the day he earned his Medal of Honor. She called him “a phenomenal guy.”

Col. Scott Davis will serve as the special recognition master of ceremonies, with Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon serving as master of ceremonies.

Veterans Peter Simunich and Patrick Thompson will be specially honored during the event. Simunich is an Iwo Jima survivor, while Thompson is a retired soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Maj. Gen. Clark LeMasters, the commanding general at TACOM, will also be present as a guest speaker. A slew of other military personnel will be on hand to lay the ceremonial wreaths.

“Every year, we seem to increase. … People are finding out about it — a lot of people have never heard about it,” Straffon said. “The word is getting around.”

Wreaths cost $15 each and can be purchased by contacting Straffon at kcstraffon@comcast.net or (810) 794-0638.