Gala to raise funds for WWII memorial

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published October 13, 2021

 World War II veteran and “Ritchie Boy” Guy Stern will serve as the keynote speaker at the 2021 Victory Gala fundraiser in Troy Oct. 23.

World War II veteran and “Ritchie Boy” Guy Stern will serve as the keynote speaker at the 2021 Victory Gala fundraiser in Troy Oct. 23.

Photos provided by Judy Maten

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TROY — The Detroit Marriott Hotel in Troy will host a special fundraiser for a proposed memorial to World War II veterans and those behind the war effort.

The fundraiser will be called “The Victory Gala.” The memorial in question would be located at 13 Mile Road and Woodward Ave. in Royal Oak, but it will honor those who contributed to the United States’ victory in the war.

“This event will be raising funds for the memorial,” explained Judy Maten, the gala chair. “It’s 3/4 of an acre for the memorial. There’s a walk of honor that are memorial bricks that families and organizations can purchase to recognize families and organizations that played a role in the war effort. There’s also statues that will represent the different facets of Michigan’s role. There will also be a wall of honor that remembers those who lost their lives. There will be a gathering space that communities can gather at and host various events there. We want to inspire future generations to carry forth the lessons and advancements that won the war.”

The gala will feature a speech by Guy Stern, a World War II veteran who was recently included in a “60 Minutes” story highlighting the Ritchie Boys, a group of intelligence officers who operated during the war.

“Stern is a WWII veteran who is 99 years old and a member of the Ritchie Boys, an Army intelligence and counterintelligence group,” Maten explained. “There will be a dinner accompanying this, and a live and silent auction. We will be updating attendees on the project’s progress.”

“I have heard Guy Stern speak twice this year, and to hear him talk, his background and the stories he tells and the visions he provides, helps let us understand what was going on in WWII and why it’s so important to society today,” added John Maten, Judy’s husband and the board president of the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial Foundation.

Those looking to register or find more information on the Victory Gala can go to www.michiganww2memorial.org.

“It takes place at the Detroit Marriott Hotel in Troy,” said Judy. “It will be Oct. 23, doors open at 5 p.m. The deadline is Oct. 16. The cost to register depends on the person. It’s $65 for World War II veterans and original Rosie the Riveters. It’s $125 for others, and VIPs are $175, which have reserved seating and get a copy of Dr. Stern’s memoir.”

Both Judy and John Maten were inspired to get involved with the efforts to fund the memorial because their fathers fought in the war.

“Both of our fathers served in the Marines in the war,” John explained. “It definitely instilled a sense of duty in us for veterans and those who served. When we saw the peace statue that was going up in Memorial Park (in Royal Oak) a few years ago, and when we looked into it, it was not just something that was done to honor veterans but it was also to teach others and educate people about the past. We wanted to do something similar.”

Progress on the memorial is moving forward despite COVID-19 causing slowdowns.

“We have had these galas every year, except for last year, but we are not just trying to raise money; we are trying to honor these people and celebrate our efforts to get this project going,” said John Maten. “We are making the plan for the memorial’s first phase. Plans are being made to begin construction in the near future. We’re hoping to nail down a date for the groundbreaking now that we have funds to begin the first phase. We aren’t prepared to say what will be in the first phase yet. We have finished a statue of a soldier sitting in a foxhole, so that will be included. We have 1,200 bricks that have already been purchased too.”

Judy Maten stressed that the memorial and the Victory Gala are important because many people don’t realize how crucial Michigan residents were in winning the war.

“I don’t think we realize Michigan’s role in what was the decisive event of the 20th century,” she said. “Our state played a vital role in that victory. A lot of what our nation is going through now is very similar to what the world was going on then. There were a lot of lessons learned back then that we need to carry forward and teach to younger generations. We also need to celebrate those who made that victory possible. … It’s a recognition for the efforts for Michigan residents who fought in World War II and how we carry their legacy forward. It’s not just veterans — it’s the state’s memorial to what the state contributed overall, so this includes the Arsenal of Democracy.”

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