They wear different uniforms, different ribbons, and they carry the ranks of different service branches. They’ve fought in different countries, in different wars, and they’ve seen different events unfold before them. They hail from different generations.
But on Nov. 11, they come together to honor all who have served the United States through the military.
At 11 a.m. that day, various local veterans groups will convene at the city’s Recreation Center for the annual Sterling Heights Veterans Day Ceremony, which features speeches, the laying of wreaths, a 21-gun salute, patriotic music, refreshments and plenty of camaraderie.
Co-sponsored by the Sterling Heights Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6250, Sterling Heights American Legion Robert L. Poxon Post 326 and Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 256, the event is open to all veterans, as well as to the general public.
“We have veterans from World War II all the way up to the current veterans, just showing the solidarity with all the veterans. … Everyone is coming together as one group and not separate groups,” said Stephan Bilan, quartermaster for VFW Post 6250.
Veterans have “given so much to the country to keep the gates of freedom open,” and they continue to do so today, he said.
“If we didn’t have special meaning on Veterans Day, it would be like almost any other day that comes up,” he said.
Even though Veterans Day falls on a Sunday this year, Bilan said organizers felt it was important to continue the ceremony Nov. 11, as the exact date has much significance. The day — as well as the time of 11 a.m. — coincides with the Germans’ signing of the Armistice in 1918, marking the end of major hostilities in World War I.
This year’s event is made possible by a grant from BAE Systems, and BAE’s own Mark Signorelli, vice president and general manager of the global defense contractor’s vehicle systems division, will serve as the keynote speaker.
“It’s certainly an honor to be there and be able to recognize the service of our veterans, especially these veterans here in the Sterling Heights area, as part of the community that’s been such a huge supporter to BAE Systems and our growing presence in the Sterling Heights area,” he said.
An “Air Force brat” born in New York, Signorelli graduated from the University of Florida in 1976 and was commissioned as a U.S. Army second lieutenant in the field artillery through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program there.
He spent 21 years as a field artillery officer with the Army, serving in various roles in III Corps, the 1st Cavalry Division, the 8th U.S. Army, U.S. Field Artillery School and the 72nd Field Artillery Brigade. He served as an artillery operations officer for the 1st Cavalry Division in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
His Army career culminated in his position as assistant deputy director for operations in the National Military Command Center.
Signorelli said he plans to focus his ceremony remarks on the “generations of service.” He recalled recent events when he saw two veterans from opposite ends of the spectrum — a 92-year-old World War II veteran and a young quadruple amputee who served in Iraq — honored for their courage and commitment.
“I’d just encourage everyone, whether they can come to the ceremony or not, to take a few minutes on Veterans Day and think about the folks that they know who have served their country,” said Signorelli, “and in some way, try to provide some small recognition for their service.”
The Recreation Center is located at 40620 Utica Road, in Dodge Park. For more information, call the Sterling Heights Community Relations Department at (586) 446-2489.