18th Patriot Day hopes to keep first responders’ efforts at the forefront

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published August 30, 2019

 A color guard walks in a procession at the Patriot Day ceremony in 2016.

A color guard walks in a procession at the Patriot Day ceremony in 2016.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 The Farmington 9/11 memorial displays a piece of an elevator shaft recovered from the World Trade Center.

The Farmington 9/11 memorial displays a piece of an elevator shaft recovered from the World Trade Center.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

 Bagpiper Terrance Bradley plays during the honor guard procession at the 2016 Patriot Day ceremony.

Bagpiper Terrance Bradley plays during the honor guard procession at the 2016 Patriot Day ceremony.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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FARMINGTON — Under the new direction of Cmdr. Marya Davis, the Groves-Walker American Legion Post 346 will commemorate the fallen first responders of Sept. 11, veterans, and those currently serving in our nation’s armed forces and local law enforcement agencies during the 18th annual Patriot Day ceremony 6-7 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Riley Park Walter Sundquist Pavilion.

Davis, who’s been with Post 346 for five years, took the helm as commander last month. She said that while the ceremony has had a rather standard approach the last several years, she’s hoping to add a new element this year by “acknowledging and paying tribute to everyone who makes sacrifices here on our home ground,” including those who serve as the cities’ first responders and their families.

“When I signed up for the American Legion, it was about honoring veterans. To be able to acknowledge and expand this very significant moment really puts us at a new dimension,” she said.

Davis said the main goal of the event is unchanged.

“It’s essential we never forget and we continue to honor those past and present.”

Farmington Public Safety Director Frank Demers said he shares the same goals as Davis.

“It’s important we never forget the lives lost that day, the sacrifices of our first responders and all the continuing sacrifices of our military,” he said. “It certainly deserved regular and repeated recognition … and we’re so grateful to the American Legion for keeping this on the forefront, and to the community for never forgetting and coming to support us.”

Looking back on the Sept. 11 attacks, Demers said they’ve ultimately changed how local law enforcement agencies operate.

“It changed our training. It changed our responses to emergencies. It forced us to operate with a higher level of awareness than we’ve ever been accustomed to in the past. Through tragedy, I think we learned a lot about homeland security and certainly how it trickles down to the local level, through changes of policy and changes of training. That continues through today,” he said.

“There used to be this sort of dividing line between the military and local law enforcement, and now it’s truly a team approach since 9/11. We’re sharing information more with our federal partners.”

The ceremony will begin with brief introductions provided by this year’s emcee, Mark Ziegler, of Heeney-Sundquist Funeral Homes, followed by short speeches from Demers, Farmington Hills Police Chief Charles Nebus and Farmington Hills Fire Chief Jon Unruh, who will then present awards to the officers and firefighters of the year.

Officer Matthew Miracle will be honored as Officer of the Year for Farmington, and Sgt. Marc Haro will receive Officer of the Year honors for Farmington Hills. The Farmington Hills Firefighter of the Year award will be presented to senior firefighter Justin Perkey.

The ceremony will feature a procession of honor guards, including the ones from the Farmington Public Safety Department, the Farmington Hills Police and Fire departments, Boy Scouts Troop 45, and the Groves-Walker American Legion, along with a bagpiper and a bugler, which Davis said is “one of the most moving parts” for her.

Davis said she not only hopes attendees are moved and inspired, like her, but that they remember how fortunate they are to live in Farmington and Farmington Hills.

“Sometimes we forget that these things could happen anywhere and on different scales,” she said. “The first responders sign up for, potentially, the ultimate sacrifice — not just by them, but also their families.”

Demers agreed, stating that beyond being a ceremony of tribute and remembrance, he hopes it serves as a way to “galvanize the community.”

“It’s events like these that really bring us together and recharge the battery,” he said. “It kind of refreshes your patriotism.”

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