Mount ClemensJuly 16, 2012
County war memorial unveiled honoring fallen soldiers in terror fight
By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer
It was with heavy hearts but patriotic pride that people from all around Macomb County gathered in downtown Mount Clemens July 15.
Local officials and dignitaries were in attendance to honor the county’s 15 soldiers killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001, with the unveiling of the 9-foot, 7,000-pound granite “Heart of America” war memorial in front of the Macomb County Administration Building.
“Today we are going to unveil a memorial that will consist of our soldiers, the residents of Macomb County, who took that call when we were attacked on 9/11,” U. S. Army veteran and Shelby Township Veterans Events Coordinator Phil Randazzo said to the assembled crowd.
“Coming home from Vietnam, they asked us boys what we were over there fighting for — well, there’s not a real answer to that,” Randazzo added. “This memorial here is going to explain why our residents here have died.
“You will see the reason they have died. And I say it’s for revenge for the people that the guerillas attacked — the civilians at the Pentagon and the twin towers.”
The memorial is a column in the shape of a pentagon and features twin towers at the top to honor Sept. 11 with the names of all the county’s fallen soldiers engraved on the front.
It sits in front of the flagpoles outside the building.
“It is so fitting to have the ‘Heart of America’ memorial, literally in the heart of Macomb County,” Mount Clemens Mayor Barb Dempsey said at the ceremony.
“We should all be mindful of what this memorial stands for, a proud tribute to the men and women who gave their lives to assure our safety and freedoms, and a monument to our never-ending respect to their families.”
The unveiling featured prayers and patriotic music along with speeches from Dempsey and Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
“We grew up in a era of a different war where … we didn’t say thank you like we should have,” Stabenow said of the Vietnam War. “We remember because of that we need to do a better job, and this is part of that, doing a better job of saying to those that are serving, those that have served us and paid the ultimate sacrifice that we will never forget.”
Randazzo, who has worked since 2004 to fundraise and coordinate the memorial’s construction and placement in the heart of Macomb County, also spoke at the unveiling of the memorial that was designed by his wife and fellow U. S. Army veteran Norma Jean Randazzo.
The ceremony concluded with Randazzo reading off the 15 names of the fallen soldiers to raucous applause in a celebration of the sacrifices the soldiers made for their families and nation.
“Pfc. Mark Barbret joined the Army to help support and take care of his son Christian, who was only 2 when Mark died. The Army ring he wore was inscribed with ‘all for Christian,’” Stabenow said, recounting the sacrifice of Shelby Township’s Mark Barbret, who was the first soldier from Macomb County killed in action during the global war on terror.
“Each one of the stories here, each one of the families, is a symbol of sacrifice, patriotism, of the freedoms we get to enjoy because of their willingness to put their lives on the line,” Stabenow added. “These 15 young men died defending our country, and we cannot possibly repay them or their families.”
And Randazzo said, as he read those names, the collective sacrifices of so many U. S. soldiers before were not far from his mind.
“I was thinking of the guys, all of my platoons,” said Randazzo, a Vietnam veteran who earned two purple hearts and two bronze stars, of what was on his mind as he read the names of the fallen.
“They were dying every day on me, and, when they die on you, you get lonely and homesick because you don’t want to make acquaintances anymore,” Randazzo added.
“So I was thinking of the guys I was originally with before we got wiped out at the Tet Offensive. So as I read their names I put them in the same category as those brave heroes that died in my platoon that first day of Tet Offensive.”
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