A crowd gathers Sept. 5 for the unveiling of a Veterans Wall at Pine Ridge of Garfield senior living community.

A crowd gathers Sept. 5 for the unveiling of a Veterans Wall at Pine Ridge of Garfield senior living community.

Photo by Jackie Magnotte


Local veterans honored with memorial at senior living community in Clinton Township

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published September 23, 2019

 From left, Fraser VFW Post 6691 Commander John Hogan, World War II vet Mike Aleo and his son, Steve, stand in front of the memorial.

From left, Fraser VFW Post 6691 Commander John Hogan, World War II vet Mike Aleo and his son, Steve, stand in front of the memorial.

Photo by Jackie Magnotte

 Donald McGraw, a U.S. Air Force major from 1951 to 1985 who served in the Korean War, points at a photo while VFW Post 6691 member John Gammicchia looks on.

Donald McGraw, a U.S. Air Force major from 1951 to 1985 who served in the Korean War, points at a photo while VFW Post 6691 member John Gammicchia looks on.

Photo by Jackie Magnotte

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FRASER/CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Military veterans who reside at Pine Ridge of Garfield got a nice surprise on the morning of Sept. 5.

Pine Ridge Executive Director Laura Christensen, Joy Director Samantha Bruce and Fraser VFW Post 6691 Commander John Hogan led a ceremony to help unveil a new Veterans Wall within the senior living community, located south of Metropolitan Parkway in Clinton Township. A total of 29 local vets were honored.

Bruce’s role as joy director makes her responsible for life enrichment, which includes a focus on health, wellness, happiness and life satisfaction. That includes organizing and implementing activities, events and initiatives that help facilitate a stress-free environment.

She said the facility has always recognized local vets, but the facility’s staff wanted to create a designated space in their honor. The entire process began in May, involving planning, painting, interviewing residents and taking photos of the honorees.

The project was fully funded by the Pine Ridge community. Additional names and photos can be added as new residents call the facility home in the future.

“This memorial serves as a place where they can come to reflect and feel appreciated,” Bruce said. “We wanted to make sure each of our veterans were featured in the display, so we took current pictures of them standing in front of the flag. Some of them even brought along jackets, hats, medals and old photographs for the photo shoot.

“The entire project truly was a beautiful experience — hearing their stories, looking at old photos, watching them reminisce together. It was an experience that just can’t be put into words. They are rightfully proud of their service and extremely grateful to be honored in this way. It was a privilege for us to put this together, and we are proud to recognize our veterans for their service to this country.”

Hogan said Pine Ridge reached out to the VFW post for its participation in the unveiling. The community includes numerous World War II and Korean War vets, so the Fraser VFW “didn’t hesitate” getting involved. About 15 post members were in attendance that morning.

“They were just absolutely amazed, and it was such a beautiful tribute to the veterans, to give them that recognition,” Hogan said. “We care as a post; Pine Ridge cares. We go out of our way to make sure our members who reside there get their recognition.”

Those who reside within the Pine Ridge community are no strangers to Post 6691. Hogan said some travel once per month for spaghetti dinners. On holidays like Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, post members will display flags at the facility and thank residents for their service.

Freedom isn’t free, he said, so to be able to honor vets for their sacrifices by involving them in heartfelt ceremonies such as this, exemplifies appreciation.

“It’s about patriotism and trying to show the pride and sense of community, and that the VFW wants to be involved,” he said.

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