Memorial Week gives community multiple opportunities to reflect and remember

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 15, 2018

 Hundreds of local residents gather on the lakefront back lawn of The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms for the 2017 Memorial Day service. This year, the 69th annual Memorial Day service will begin at 10 a.m. May 28.

Hundreds of local residents gather on the lakefront back lawn of The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms for the 2017 Memorial Day service. This year, the 69th annual Memorial Day service will begin at 10 a.m. May 28.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Memorial Day is such a significant holiday for The War Memorial that it has now become a week’s worth of special events that bring members of the military and the community together.

Events begin by acknowledging the personal sacrifices and sense of service among young military recruits, as The War Memorial will host its fourth annual Our Community Salutes on May 22. At 6 p.m., new high school graduates who have enlisted in the military will arrive for a service in their honor. The public is invited to see them take the oath of enlistment at 7 p.m.

“It’s just a very lovely ceremony,” said Charles Burke, president and CEO of The War Memorial. “Schools don’t do that for their students after graduation, so we’re happy to fill that (need).”

Last year, Our Community Salutes — which is a national program — drew about 30 students from across Michigan, who were joined by family, friends and local residents, said Brooks Hoste, senior director of community engagement at The War Memorial. Final numbers weren’t available at press time, but Hoste said they were “definitely exceeding that (figure) this year.” New enlistees need to register in advance for this program, which is free.

Hoste said students from as far away as Port Huron and Fort Gratiot have taken part in this ceremony.

“We’re really the only Our Community Salutes affiliate in the state,” he said.

“Enlisted,” a documentary by award-winning metro Detroit filmmaker Keith Famie, will be screened at 7:30 p.m. May 23 inside The Patriot Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m. for this event.

“‘Enlisted’ takes a really specific look at the path new enlistees take when they enroll in the armed services,” said Burke.

Although it’s free, “Enlisted” seating is limited, so attendees are asked to make reservations. After the roughly 90-minute documentary, Famie will field questions from the audience. Hoste said this will mark Famie’s third appearance at The War Memorial.

The annual gala, An Evening of Red, White and Blue, will start with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. May 24, followed by a formal program at 7 p.m. An afterglow will begin at 8:30 p.m., with fireworks over Lake St. Clair at 9:45 p.m. Reservations for the gala should be made by May 18 — it’s expected to again sell out — but those who can’t get gala tickets can still attend the afterglow and fireworks celebration alone, for which reservations are still required but can be made as late as the day of the event.

“It’s a celebration of patriotism, culture, community and leadership,” Burke said. “It will include spectacular hospitality and a community coming together to celebrate our heroes. It’s just going to be a delightful evening.”

Some wear black tie attire for Red, White and Blue and some don’t, but Burke said everyone dons the colors that are its namesake.

This year’s gala will honor Quicken Loans’ veterans hiring program, which Burke said is “very successful” and makes sure that veterans “have a path forward” to a new career.

The gala is a fundraiser for The War Memorial’s Patriot Initiative, which provides “direct funding to organizations that provide direct services to veterans,” Burke said. As a result of last year’s gala, The War Memorial was able to give three grants of $5,000 apiece that were distributed to Cass Community Social Services, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Inc., and Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund, Hoste said. Organizations apply for these grants, and those applications are evaluated by the Patriot Initiative Board; Burke said the grants are given out on Veterans Day.

Memorial Week is capped off by the Memorial Day service, which this year will mark its 69th anniversary. The service, held on the lakeside back lawn of The War Memorial, will begin at 10 a.m. May 28 and is free and open to the public. No reservations are necessary.

“Memorial Day is the most important day here at The War Memorial,” Burke said.

The names of Grosse Pointe military members who died while serving their country will once again be read aloud, with a bell tolling in their honor. Burke said the solemn event, which lasts roughly an hour to 90 minutes, will include participation by community groups, individuals, veterans groups, musicians and others.

“It truly is the widest array of community coming together for the right reasons,” Burke said.

This year, Burke said they’ll be announcing the formation of a new chapter of the Blue Star Mothers at The War Memorial during the Memorial Day program.

“The War Memorial will be a place where they can meet and do their good work,” he said.

Burke said “well over” 500 people took part in last year’s Memorial Day ceremony.

“We’ve had steady growth as time goes on,” he said.

Those who have never attended the ceremony can get a sense of it from a short video that The War Memorial produced last year. Titled “Until Such a Time,” it can be viewed on The War Memorial’s website or YouTube channel.

Those who can’t make the Memorial Day service will be able to watch it online; Hoste said it will be livestreamed on The War Memorial’s Facebook page.

The War Memorial is located at 32 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Farms. For reservations or more information, call (313) 881-7511 or visit www.warmemorial.org.