CLINTON TOWNSHIP/ FRASER — Veterans Day events at the Fraser VFW and Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township on Nov. 11 recognized members of the U.S. Armed Services past and present, living and deceased, for their service.
For Amber Hensen, whose husband, Ssg. John Hansen, was killed by an improvised explosive device in July while on duty in Afghanistan, the day was a somber affair. John Hansen had previously served a tour in 2009 in Iraq.
“(Veterans Day) helps keep their memory alive; I think that’s the most important thing,” said Amber Hansen, a Colorado resident and Chesterfield Township native who was at Resurrection Cemetery on Nov. 11. “A lot of people say (to veterans), ‘Thank you for your service.’ Sometimes they’re just words. I’d like people to reflect on what it really means to thank a veteran for their service and for those who have given their lives for our country.”
A Veterans Day ceremony was held that afternoon at Resurrection Ceremony’s veterans pavilion, which bears the mottos and flags of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy and POW/MIAs carved in stone. Nearby, 270 6-foot American flags each displayed the name and a short biography of a different service man or women killed in action this century in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of whom either lived in Michigan or were based in a Michigan unit.
Veterans serving as far back as World War II were in attendance.
The ceremony featured invocations and speeches, and a rifle salute from members of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 Honor Guard in Roseville. VVA members also read aloud the names of honorably discharged veterans, both living and deceased, who have been added to the cemetery’s Arlington Cemetery-like stone tablets within the last few months.
At the Fraser VFW Post 6691, post members and their families gathered for speeches around the post’s flagpole during the morning. Afterward, those present — most of whom were veterans or related to veterans — ceremonially retired American flags, one-by-one setting the flags into a fire pit. Some veterans saluted, and some said or thought the name of a service member or unit for whom they were remembering.
Retiring a flag into the pit, Master Sgt. Rick Carroll remembered the service members he served with and continues to serve with, including those who are alive and those who were killed in action, along with the families they left behind.
This time last year, Carroll, a member of the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Unit based at Selfridge Air National Guard, has been deployed five times. This time last year, he was serving in Afghanistan.
Ann Johnston’s husband, Ray Johnston, built bridges during the Korean War and was involved in the Fraser VFW before he died 12 years ago. The couple were married for 27 years.
As a weekly volunteer at John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit, she knows the toll that active military duty can take on service members’ physical and mental well-being.
“Some of them look like they’re barely out of high school, let alone in the service,” she said.
Amber Hansen said service members are expected to get back into the swing of things when they come back to the U.S. “But a lot of guys come back with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and they fall to the wayside,” she said. “There are a lot of homeless veterans out there. It’s a shame that, after everything they’ve done for our country, they’re living on the streets.”
Throughout the day on Veterans Day, the VVA Chapter 154 Honor Guard traveled to honor veterans at Clinton Grove Cemetery and Cadillac Memorial Gardens East.
“There’s a camaraderie that exists between veterans because it’s a very unique fraternity,” said VVA Chapter 154 President Brian Bobeck. “Every veteran who ever put on the uniform of the United States military swore an oath to the United States to defend this country and our freedoms, with their life if necessary.”