Memorial Day ceremony provides a time to reflect

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 28, 2018

 Local Girl Scouts raise the flag at the Grosse Pointe Woods Historical Commission’s 36th annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Circle of Honor on Vernier Road at Mack Avenue.

Local Girl Scouts raise the flag at the Grosse Pointe Woods Historical Commission’s 36th annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Circle of Honor on Vernier Road at Mack Avenue.

Photo by Sean Work

WOODS — The Grosse Pointe Woods Historical Commission’s 36th annual Memorial Day ceremony May 28 gave community members a chance to remember the fallen.

As they gathered at the Circle of Honor on Vernier Road at Mack Avenue, they heard stories of bravery and listened to patriotic music during the ceremony, which carried the theme of “World War I — 100 Years Ago.”

Veterans of all years were encouraged to attend and wear all or part of their uniforms. World War I lasted from 1914-18; the United States joined the war in 1917.

Mary Kaye Ferry served as master of ceremonies, and the Rev. Matthew Swiatek, of Crosspointe Christian Church and the chaplain for the Grosse Pointe Woods Department of Public Safety, provided the invocation and benediction.

“Today our nation pauses to remember those in the military who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy,” Swiatek said.

As Mayor Pro Tem Arthur Bryant greeted the crowd, he thanked the Historical Commission for all it does and also asked vets and family members of veterans in the crowd to stand. Kay Burt-Wilson, regent, Louisa St. Clair Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, was this year’s keynote speaker.

“You’re joining me today to pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives,” Burt-Wilson said.

DAR is a nonprofit organization comprised of women who volunteer to preserve American history and to promote patriotism. More than 930,000 women have joined the organization since it was founded more than 125 years ago. According to Burt-Wilson, there are 3,000 chapters in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

During WWI, the women of the Louisa St. Clair Chapter supported military men any way they could. One way they did that was by meeting up to knit sweaters, socks, head-and-neck coverings known as wool helmets, and mufflers to be sent out.

“Knitting became the backbone for our boys,” Burt-Wilson said.

During her presentation, Burt-Wilson stated that it was U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who asked Congress to declare war on Germany in 1917. She also shared a story about John McCrae, a Canadian doctor and member of the British Empire, who was moved by the sight of red poppy flowers while stationed near Ypres, Belgium, in an area known as Flanders. After McCrae’s friend had been killed in battle, McCrae penned the famous poem “In Flanders Fields.”

Memorial Day was once known as Decoration Day, and mourners honored those killed during the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves. By the year 1967, Decoration Day had officially become known as Memorial Day, a holiday celebrated annually on the last Monday in May.

Grosse Pointe City resident Al LaHood, who spoke at the ceremony a few years ago, was one of the veterans in the crowd. The 72-year-old was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1968. He served for two years as an infantryman and was stationed in Vietnam during wartime. He called his service “a fascinating experience” and “life-changing.”

“I was with the best people in the world. We had a lot of casualties in my unit,” he said, tearing up. “Their lives ended at 22 years old. I get very emotional when I think of these guys in Iraq and Afghanistan with multiple deployments. Many people in my era, the thought of going back for a second or third time … no.”

Navy veteran Bruce Schofield, of Grosse Pointe Woods, who served aboard the Tench-class submarine USS Thornback, also attended Monday’s ceremony.  Schofield joined the Navy Reserve in 1953 and, four years later, his stint turned to active duty.

“I wanted to see the world,” Schofield said.

Onboard, Schofield was a cook and spent time in the Caribbean, Ireland and Scotland. He appreciates the annual Grosse Pointe Woods Historical Commission’s Memorial Day ceremony.

During the ceremony, members of Grosse Pointe North High School’s Pointe Chorale, directed by Ben Henri, and Mel Stander’s Gentlemen of Swing, directed by Ralph Miller, performed.

The Anchor Bay High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Michigan No. 931 Color Guard and local Scout troops conducted the flag raising. The ceremony ended with taps. Following the ceremony, all the veterans posed for group pictures.

For more information on the Daughters of the American Revolution, visit www.dar.org.