The Veterans War Memorial, a staple of the Royal Oak community since 1946, will be adding a plaque for those who died from the effects of their military service.

The Veterans War Memorial, a staple of the Royal Oak community since 1946, will be adding a plaque for those who died from the effects of their military service.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Royal Oak to add plaque to Veterans War Memorial

Plaque will honor veterans who died from health effects of their service

By: Taylor Christensen | Royal Oak Review | Published March 19, 2024


ROYAL OAK — The Royal Oak War Memorial will be getting an addition to honor those who lost their lives due to toxic exposure to chemicals or hazardous substances during their military service.

The veterans events committee proposed the 24-by-30-inch engraved granite plaque at the City Commission meeting on Feb. 29. The proposal received the commission’s unanimous approval.

The memorial will read: “In memory of the men and women who served in the military and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their service.”

The monument is going to cost $2,500, which the Downtown Development Authority has agreed to cover fully.

“We know that the casualties of war go beyond the battlefield, and it is important that we have recognition of that both in terms of who we are, what we say and what we see,” Mayor Mike Fournier said. “I think this is something that will remind everybody, especially in this park, that there was a battle carried home here.”

The idea for the plaque stemmed from a request from one individual for a friend’s name to be added to the Vietnam memorial.

Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said that this individual died years after his service from ailments due to his time in the service. Because of restrictions due to the Department of Veterans Affairs, it was not possible to add this name.

The names on the Vietnam memorial are largely teenagers and young adults who died during their service time, according to Davids, making it unusual to add a name who died years after the end of the Vietnam War.

“We do want his story to be told, but his story is a little bit different than those names that are on there,” Davids said.

Arbor Laclave, a member of the Veterans Events Committee, said that this new plaque is a way to grant this individual’s wishes and honor those who have lost their lives in the years after service.

Laclave said that veterans who have died following service in relation to exposure to chemicals or hazardous substances and are not registered with the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot have their names put on a memorial.

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is an agency of the federal government that provides benefits, health care and cemetery services to military veterans,” according to the Veterans Affairs website,

“The issue is that some of the people have died after exposure to Agent Orange, which is quite a big deal,” Laclave said. “The biggest issue is with the VA, you have to go through the whole process of being service connected through the VA.”

Laclave said the process is very difficult for family members to go through. If a veteran passes away due to these causes, the family has to go through the process of registering them with the VA, and it is difficult to prove that the death was related to their time in the service.

“If you don’t have detailed medical records and a service connection already established from the VA, it is an absolute nightmare,” he said.

The plaque will be in compliance with the PACT Act of 2022, which is the “Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins Act of 2022,” Laclave said.

The PACT act was passed by Congress, “expanding the VA health care and benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances,” as stated on the Veterans Affairs website.

Laclave said that the PACT act is a huge benefit to veterans and a step in the right direction for the VA.

“This is the new standard for taking care of soldiers, service members and people who have been exposed to that stuff,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier now for any person trying to get help or to get any type of benefits or honor for their service.”

Davids said that Royal Oak is working on adding names of those who have died from service-related health issues to the Royal Oak War Memorial Database. This way their stories get told, and those who could be affected in years to come will also be recognized.