VFW Bruce Post Commander Randell J. Shafer presides over the 2021 Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 11.

VFW Bruce Post Commander Randell J. Shafer presides over the 2021 Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 11.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Crowd gathers for annual VFW Veterans Day ceremony in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 17, 2021

 Kathy Millbrand, the group leader of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, and quilter Michelle Luft present Army veteran Chris Jensen with a quilt.

Kathy Millbrand, the group leader of the Quilts of Valor Foundation, and quilter Michelle Luft present Army veteran Chris Jensen with a quilt.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Veterans, loved ones and supporters filled the halls of the VFW Bruce Post 1146 on Veterans Day to pay tribute to those who have served in the branches of the armed forces.

The Nov. 11 Veterans Day Ceremony at the VFW Bruce Post 1146 began, however, with the voices of those who have not yet had the opportunity to serve their country — a fourth grade choir from Violet Elementary, the Violet Voices, started the program with a song thanking the veterans for their service.

“We are going to sing to the veterans and make them feel happy for their sacrifice and how we are very proud for them serving and keeping us safe,” said Hayden Ward, a fourth grader at Violet Elementary in Lake Shore Public Schools. “We can celebrate the veterans for helping us stay safe and protecting us.”

The event also included speeches by VFW Bruce Post 1146 Commander Randell J. Shafer and retired Lt. Col. Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski, who served in the state House of Representatives from 1997 until 2002.

“God bless all of you for your service,” Raczkowski said, thanking the gathered veterans. He said that, as a more recent veteran, he appreciated the sacrifices and challenges faced by those veterans who served in Vietnam and were treated poorly upon their return, in some cases, for serving in that war.

“What’s really great about this country are the men and women who served in uniform,” Raczkowski said. “Today, we celebrate the day that we celebrate (because of) all of you. We landed at airports and had people bringing us food.”

That wasn’t the case for Vietnam veterans, he explained, who — in some cases — came home to people berating them for what they had done instead of thanking them. Raczkowski said it was the Vietnam veterans who worked to make a change for the next generation of veterans.

“The Vietnam veterans, these men and women, when they came home ... they said, ‘The next generation who has to go to war, when they come home, they will have parades,’” he said.

Wallace Southerland, of St. Clair Shores, echoed that sentiment. He served on a riverboat in the Navy in Vietnam in 1969, during what he called his “lost year.”

“It’s for us guys that served,” he said of the Veterans Day celebration. “It’s nice. When we came home from ’Nam, we didn’t get no respect, and now we do.”

Everyone should ask themselves if they have earned the sacrifice veterans have made for them, Raczkowski said.

“Enjoy your day,” he told the gathered veterans. “Today is your day to go out and serve others.”

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, also spoke at the event. He said it was important to him to take time to recognize the 37,000 veterans who live in Michigan’s 9th District.

“We must do more to ensure our nation’s veterans have ... what they need,” he said. “There’s a lot we can do in the halls of Congress to support our veterans. We must continue to allocate resources to those who have served.”

That’s what veterans attending the ceremony said they wanted others to understand — that they’re just looking for support.

Chris Jensen, of St. Clair Shores, served as an Army Specialist 4 from 1969-1971 in Berlin, Germany. Veterans Day is a time for remembering friends, he said, but he said he wished the country was more supportive of veterans, in general.

“I feel like they’re not supporting us. Look what they did in Afghanistan,” he said. “I want them to know all these guys that died, they were patriots and they shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Barbara Ellis, of St. Clair Shores, served in the Army Reserves from 1974-1996. She joined in Cleveland, Ohio, where she lived at the time, and then served various other places as she moved with her husband, who was also in the military. She said that, although Memorial Day is meant to honor those who died in service, she thinks of them on Veterans Day, as well.

“It’s a way to honor those who have given their lives,” she said. “So many gave so much, and so many had so little recognition, so it’s a way to honor their service.”

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