Community Foundation hosts annual Veterans Day ceremony

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published November 12, 2013

 Ron Drdul, honor guard chaplain for the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154, gives a speech in honor of all men and women who have served.

Ron Drdul, honor guard chaplain for the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154, gives a speech in honor of all men and women who have served.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The weather was cold, but the skies were crystal clear as a crowd of people gathered at the Veterans and First Responders Memorial in front of Macomb Township Hall on Nov. 8 to pay their respects to all who have protected their way of life, and who continue to defend it day in and day out.

An enormous American flag, held aloft by a 102-foot fire truck ladder, flapped in the soft breeze and shone brightly in the late-afternoon sunlight. It punctuated the solemn atmosphere of the Macomb Township Community Foundation’s (MTCF) annual Veterans Day Remembrance Ceremony, which was attended by about 50 military veterans, church leaders, township officials and residents.

As MTCF board member Charles Shaw told the audience in his opening remarks, events like this are exactly what the foundation had in mind when it constructed the Veterans Memorial in 2010.

“This memorial is only fully complete on a day like today,” Shaw said, “when members of our community can come together to celebrate the men and women who protect our freedom.”

Local sixth-grade student Harmon Freitas then led the congregation through a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Rev. Jason Huff, pastor at Church of the Covenant in Macomb Township, followed by reading a prayer of gratitude for military veterans and telling a story that lauded their role in maintaining a strong, safe and civil society.

“As we flee from danger, you run toward it to protect us,” Huff said. “You are seekers while we are lost. You have shone a light into our world. You protect our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”

But as Ron Drdul — honor guard chaplain for the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 — pointed out, that type of security often comes at a tremendous cost. In addition to all the servicemen and -women who have lost their lives, there are many more who made it home safely but still carry the mental and emotional scars of life at war.

“Freedom, as they say, is never free,” Drdul said. “In the end, we can never do enough to thank our veterans. No government service can ever pay them back for all that they’ve sacrificed. No holiday can make up for the lives, loves, limbs and innocence that they’ve lost.”

Members of the Chapter 154 color guard then lowered the old flags on the center flagpole and raised new ones in their place. This ritual was followed by a 21-gun salute. As a final gesture, a recording of “Taps” was played over the speakers, causing all those in attendance to bow their heads in respect.

Macomb Township Trustee Roger Krzeminski, a member of the color guard, was dressed in full uniform for the occasion. After the ceremony came to a close, he spoke with reverence about the importance of recognizing Veterans Day.

“This is for all the guys who gave their lives so that we can all be free — those are the ones who we’re paying homage to,” said Krzeminski, who served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam. “We use this day as an opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to all those who have served. We’re here to keep that light glowing — to keep that candle lit.”

For Color Guard Commander Jim Watts, a Macomb Township resident, the holiday is intended to give equal respect to all veterans, living or dead, regardless of which military branch they served in or how long they served.

“This is a very sacred day for me, but it can also be a very sad day,” he said. “I always take time to reflect on the guys I knew who didn’t make it home safely — to honor their memory. But it’s also very important to remember that this is a day to celebrate our veterans, not mourn them.”

For Vietnam alumni like Watts and Vice Commander Steve Bago, Veterans Day also serves as a reminder not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Bago, a Chesterfield Township resident, is a firm believer that all veterans deserve to be welcomed home with open arms — even if the war that they fought in was  unpopular.

“Veterans Day has taken on new meaning for me, with all the young guys who are still fighting overseas,” he said. “Our motto is, ‘Never again will one generation of veterans neglect the next generation.’ When they come home, we want the veterans of today to have the type of support that we never got.”