WB approves memorial idea, honors police and safety officials

By: Eric Czarnik | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 4, 2013

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Fallen soldiers and public safety workers both living and deceased were honored at a Jan. 28 West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees meeting.

Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste will work with a local chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen to raise private funds and organize a drive to build a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that will also honor protectors of the public near the township’s Police Department.

The township board voted 6-0 to approve the memorial idea, with Trustee Steven Kaplan being absent.

William Burnett from the Airmen said a memorial would help residents reflect on observances like Memorial Day and Veterans Day. He also said the marker would honor families’ loved ones who have died in combat, particularly those who never returned home.

“We just want you to consider it,” he said. “And we stand ready to support you 200 percent on this project.”

Burnett also agreed to honor the township’s police and fire departments with the memorial, and vowed to mark its installation with a ceremony complete with music, local dignitaries and clergy.

Ureste said the Airmen brought the memorial idea to her attention about a year ago. She said the fallen hero memorial could potentially appear on the Police Department’s campus in a spot not too far from a K-9 police dog memorial that a Boy Scout set up in 2012.

She asked Burnett if they could include an engraved message mentioning fallen police Sgt. Patrick O’Rourke, and Burnett agreed.

“We will inscribe his name on the monument that you choose,” he said. “Yes, it will be there.”

Burnett said the Tuskegee Airmen were originally a group of black pilots and military men who, after much opposition, were able to serve their country and fight in World War II.

Today, Burnett said, the group is open to all people who have a clean criminal record and are sponsored by another member for induction.

“Because we were discriminated against, we chose not to be a discriminatory organization,” he said. “We are proud to say that we welcome anybody who qualified.”

Afterward, West Bloomfield Police Chief Mike Patton honored more than a dozen members of the police and fire departments, along with dispatchers, for their dedication in handling the standoff at a West Bloomfield home that led to O’Rourke’s death by gunfire.

The standoff started Sept. 9 after police responded to what they said appeared to be a man’s suicide attempt. However, when police entered the home, the man ambushed them with gunfire from behind a bedroom door and wall, Patton said.

The owner of an excavation company, Al Doran, was honored for tearing down part of the home during the standoff, allowing a police robot to enter the home.

Patton said each of the people who received an award wished that they were there for something else.

“But to not acknowledge each of them for their courage under fire, their dedication and commitment to service and their willingness to help when help was desperately needed would be a disservice to the life that Pat O’Rourke exemplified,” he said. “Pat would want us to do this.”

More information about the Tuskegee Airmen can be found at www.tuskegeeairmen.org.