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Local VFW members fix up WWII memorial

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published November 5, 2014

 Vietnam veteran and Fraser VFW member Raymond Michael Sand does some work on the exterior of the World War II memorial sitting outside Fraser City Hall.

Vietnam veteran and Fraser VFW member Raymond Michael Sand does some work on the exterior of the World War II memorial sitting outside Fraser City Hall.

Photo submitted by Raymond Michael Sand

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FRASER — An old military credo states, “Freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.”

With American patriotism revving up for Veterans Day, a group of local VFW members want to keep liberty alive in the community they call home.

After receiving confirmation from Fraser Mayor Doug Hagerty and the city’s Department of Public Works, representatives of Fraser VFW Post 6691 — located near Garfield and 14 Mile roads — decided to beautify a World War II memorial that sits at Fraser City Hall.

The memorial, which shows an honor roll of veterans hailing from Fraser, originally stood on the corner of 14 Mile and Utica roads prior to falling apart years ago. After a couple World War II veterans replicated the memorial with the help of skilled craftsmen from Fraser High School, the memorial was erected at its current site.

Raymond Michael Sand is a public information officer for Chapter 9 (Detroit) of the Vietnam Veterans of America and the Veterans Memorial Park of Detroit.

Sand, who has been a Fraser resident since 1974, is a Vietnam veteran who served in the United States Air Force from 1967-71. The son of a World War II veteran, Sand recalls his father taking him to different veteran affairs activities and parades. When he was drafted at the age of 19, he decided to sign up on his own volition and join the Air Force.

That’s when he became a man, he said.

“I always looked up to my dad for his service and his patriotism,” Sand said.

After training for a year, he went to Southeast Asia and was stationed at a classified secret base in Thailand, which ran bombing missions over Vietnam as part of Operation “Rolling Thunder.”

But social upheaval over Vietnam had an impact on Sand’s psyche.

“I always had resentment in my heart because my dad was a proud veteran, and Vietnam veterans were considered baby killers and war mongers and that BS,” he said.

The memorial in Fraser, though, provides an outlet for veterans, their families and patriotic Americans to absorb the history of the past and to honor those who risked their lives — as well as those who are currently risking their lives in various military operations.

VFW members like Sand, Greg Plouff and John Gammicchia are going to put fiberglass paneling on the memorial, as well as cleaning up the grounds and maybe planting tulip bulbs around it.

“It’s time to clean it up, and we’re honored to do it,” Sand said.

Sand and other vets are also working collectively to establish an all-veteran memorial in Detroit, where there is currently nothing really in place to recognize service and sacrifice. Sand calls it sad because Detroit has been known as an arsenal of democracy in its history and there’s not much visual proof of that.

Having a memorial in Fraser keeps history alive.

“The young people today that serve aren’t getting the right recognition they deserve,” Sand said. “There are young patriotic people who care about this country, and I like to show them off.

“They call us enlisted people and lower ranking members the pawns of war. It’s just amazing (the amount of people who) put their lives on the line for a cause.”

Sand has met thousands of Vietnamese refugees since the Vietnam War, and he even sponsored a family of refugees in 1975. From growing up with a military father and war-bride mother, he remembers how the American flag flew at his house every day.

Sand mentioned, as years pass and the world changes, one military ideology never changes: “Never again shall one generation of veterans abandon another.”

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