Community gathers to thank veterans for their service

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published November 18, 2015

 Southfield resident, Navy veteran and commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2645 Don Kuffner salutes while acting Mayor Donald Fracassi and members of the Michigan Veterans Foundation place a wreath on the Veterans Memorial Garden in front of Southfield City Hall Nov. 10.

Southfield resident, Navy veteran and commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2645 Don Kuffner salutes while acting Mayor Donald Fracassi and members of the Michigan Veterans Foundation place a wreath on the Veterans Memorial Garden in front of Southfield City Hall Nov. 10.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — Residents, city officials and community members showed their appreciation for those who have served our country in a ceremony commemorating Veterans Day Nov. 10.

At 11 a.m. in the council chambers in the Southfield Municipal Complex, attendees took an hour out of their day to celebrate Veterans Day — the federal holiday designed to celebrate the service of all U.S. military veterans, which is observed Nov. 11 each year.

Acting Mayor Donald Fracassi hosted the ceremony, which featured remarks from Col. Keith Sousa, a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence and City Councilman and Southfield Veterans Commission Chair Daniel Brightwell. Rabbi Yechiel Morris, of Young Israel of Southfield, delivered the invocation and benediction.

The colors were presented by the Southfield Police and Fire departments, along with the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Department Honor Guard. The Southfield-Lathrup High School advanced choir offered musical selections.

Morris offered a prayer for strength, vitality and good health to veterans, and love and eternal rest to those veterans who have passed on.

“Their service, both in times of war and peace, has contributed to the safety, security and welfare of the citizens of our beloved country. We thank the veterans for their service, acknowledge their contributions to our national security,  celebrate their patriotism and love of country, and recognize the difficult sacrifices they have made,” Morris said.

Lawrence said she is working with elected officials to give veterans the benefits they need. She said Michigan is among the states with the lowest number of benefits available for veterans.

“While we recognize, appreciate and honor you, my message is that it’s more than a day and a parade and a speech. It’s about what we’re doing to keep our word to take care of you. To give you the resources you need and the benefits that you are entitled to,” Lawrence said.

Sousa spoke about the backlash that Vietnam veterans faced when they returned home, as well as preventing homelessness among veterans.

“I’d like to remind everyone that there are literally thousands of homeless veterans in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties — well over 6,000. If you see a veteran out there that is homeless or potentially homeless, help them out,” Sousa said.

Sousa mentioned the 24-hour hotline for homeless veterans, (877) 4AID-VET, or (877) 424-3838, which is provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and can help connect veterans with counselors and resources.

Fracassi, and members of the Michigan Veterans Foundation, placed a wreath on the Veterans Memorial Garden in front of City Hall, followed by a moment of silence, a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps by Southfield High School student Thomas Calhoun.

Air Force veteran and Southfield resident Gregory Pulliam and Army veteran and Lathrup Village resident Don Eichstaedt said they wish the government would keep its promises regarding benefits and legislation to help veterans.

“As a member of the Veterans Commission, commander of the American Legion, I’m glad I’m able to be here to assist,” Pulliam said. Veterans past and future have a lot of issues with the government being very lackadaisical about the treatment and care they give them, and so that’s what we’re here for. That’s what I’m here for — to represent them. They can’t speak for themselves, so I’ll speak up for them.”

The Southfield Veterans Commission also provides a 24-hour crisis line at (800) 273-8255. For more information on the commission, call (248) 796-4VET or visit cityofsouthfield.com.

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