Veteran’s Day festivities focus on honoring the past

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published November 7, 2017

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FRASER — Veteran’s Day holds special meaning for those who have served and continue to serve, and that feeling is tenfold at Fraser VFW Post 6691.

Starting around 11 a.m. Nov. 11, the post will conduct its annual flag raising ceremony and flag retirement ceremony. Also, a new “Path of Honor” is expected to be completed prior to the day’s festivities.

John Hogan, a United States Air Force veteran and the post’s commander since June, said the pilot program involves a walkway near the flagpole. After more than 15 years, concrete is cracking and symbols are weathered on plate-sized designations. The post wants to pull the plates, resurface the memorial and honor veterans’ different branches of service.

Bricks can be purchased by anybody, no matter the city or military designation. For $100, an individual can buy 4-by-4-foot bricks, or $150 can buy 8-by-8-foot bricks. At press time, about 60 bricks had already been purchased.

Mike Sand, a Vietnam veteran and the post’s public information officer, said that with the weather changing, the post went “90 miles an hour” to raise money for the updated bricks. Almost $4,000 was raised, with leftover cash to be saved for a future larger project if all goes well.

He mentioned the post wanting to do something similar to the helicopter that’s erected at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights.

“With all this negativity going on, it’s a nice thing we do to have all this patriotism in this country,” Sand said.

Another special part of the festivities involves longtime member Claude Wood — who was the post’s first commander in 1946 — turning 99 years old Nov. 13. Both Hogan and Sand called Wood a “very humble” man.

“Every time I get near the man, he reminds me of my father, because my father was in World War II,” Hogan said, adding that Wood — who was awarded a Purple Heart — would go behind enemy lines and accumulate intelligence. “To me those are the real heroes. … Claude is very humble about it, he doesn’t really take a whole lot about it.”

Wood, who will receive a plaque commemorating his military achievement, is still on the Macomb County Ritual Team. He travels to veterans’ funerals and does the 21-gun salute.

Sand said Macomb County is a melting pot in American lore, with visits by presidents and popes, and renowned for political influence. He said Wood and other vets keep the heritage alive.

“Fraser has always been kind of a small bedroom community, and we’ve had a lot of veteran and historic things happen here,” Sand said.

Both veterans have expressed the desire to bring in more members to the post, though. Hogan said karaoke and other club room and hall activities are attempts to draw in younger crowds. Though he’s 62, he identified himself as a progressive thinker.

“Those individuals who were in Afghanistan or Iraq — I don’t want to see them treated like those Vietnam veterans when they got back, because they got a raw deal,” Hogan said. “Part of that is happening again.”

Sand is worried that other posts are closing their doors due to low levels of participation, so opening memberships to families and auxiliary members might make people less reluctant to see what’s happening.

“We’re really trying to appeal to 40-somethings,” Sand said. “That’s the age us Vietnam vets started coming on board. … We’re kind of losing that club kind of thing because of handheld devices and social media.”

Hogan said he had three children while he was serving, along with a full-time job and participating in the VFW. He said he just wants more members, no matter how much they contribute or show their faces.

“We try to stress to the people when you join, join the organization and become a member and participate as much as you want,” Hogan said. “I don’t care if you come once a year, but get recognition for your service out on the battlefield.”