Township honors veterans with annual ceremony

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published November 11, 2014

 Ron Drdul, honor guard chaplain for the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154, gives the invocation during Macomb Township’s annual Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 7.

Ron Drdul, honor guard chaplain for the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154, gives the invocation during Macomb Township’s annual Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 7.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Time seemed to stand still as the mournful notes of Taps hung in the crisp autumn air at Macomb Township’s Veterans and First Responders Memorial on Nov. 7.

As Jim Watts, color guard commander for the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 154, played the familiar melody on his bugle, no one in the crowd moved a muscle, and no other sound could be heard besides the softly howling wind. A massive American flag, which had been raised to the sky by the ladder of a Macomb Township fire truck, flapped gently in the breeze as if in slow motion. Beams of sunlight were tinted red, white and blue as they shone through the flowing fabric.

This was the respectful and dignified mood at the annual Veterans Day ceremony hosted by the Macomb Township Community Foundation (MTCF). Community members congregated at the memorial, which was constructed in front of Macomb Township Hall by the MTCF in 2010, to pay tribute to military veterans past and present.

According to MTCF board member Charles Shaw, “We are gathered here to honor our brave veterans … by taking a few moments to remember their sacrifices and their commitment to the American ideals of honor, duty and service to country. This is an opportunity to show our veterans that this grateful community salutes them, and we say with one voice, ‘Thank you for your service.’”

After local seventh-grade student Harmon Freitas led the crowd through the Pledge of Allegiance, members of the VVA Chapter 154 color guard raised new flags on the center flagpole. Ron Drdul, the Chapter 154 honor guard chaplain, then addressed the importance of using Veterans Day to recognize veterans both living and dead, both active and inactive.

“From Valley Forge to Vietnam, from Kuwait to Kandahar, from Berlin to Baghdad, our veterans have borne the cost of America’s wars, and they have stood watch over America’s peace,” Drdul said. “Our veterans are drawn from many generations and from many backgrounds. Some charged across great battlefields, some fought on the high seas, some patrolled the open skies, and all contributed to the character and the greatness of America.”

Drdul pointed out that there are about 24 million military veterans living in the U.S. today. In addition, he urged the crowd not to forget about the nation’s future veterans: the roughly 1.4 million servicemen and -women currently on active duty around the world.

“They are our nation’s finest citizens — they confront great danger to defend the safety of the American people,” Drdul said. “Through their sacrifice, they are making this nation safer and more secure, and they are earning the proud title of ‘veteran.’”

MTCF board member Gary Cynowa said that although he is not a veteran himself, he understands the importance of honoring all those who have served. Within his own family, his father and father-in-law are veterans, as are his brother and brother-in-law, and two of his sons. His grandson, meanwhile, is on active duty in the U.S. Army.

“I do this every year for them,” Cynowa said. “It’s all about honoring their sacrifices and commemorating their lives.”

He added that although the MTCF’s Veterans Day ceremony is currently the only formal event held at the Veterans and First Responders Memorial each year, the board is considering adding a Memorial Day ceremony in the future.

Macomb Township Trustee Roger Krzeminski served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam and is now a member of the VVA Chapter 154 color guard. He maintained that Veterans Day is a holiday that deserves more attention from the American public.

“More than anything else, I think what this ceremony really does,” he said, “is it keeps the lamp lit for the loss of lives through the various wars, the ones that our young men and women did not come back from. They could have been fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters — and they were taken to eternal peace far too young.”

Krzeminski also pointed out that Veterans Day festivities for the local VVA chapter were far from over. On the actual holiday, Nov. 11, some members would be hosting ceremonies at Freedom Hill County Park in Sterling Heights, and at Resurrection Cemetery and Cadillac Memorial Gardens East in Clinton Township, he said.

But first there was the matter of finishing up their duties in Macomb Township, which included a 21-gun salute from the color guard and the playing of Taps. In his closing remarks, Drdul reminded all those in attendance that the best way to express their appreciation for veterans is to do it in person.

“I urge you to go up to those men and women and shake their hand, give them a hug, and give them a word of thanks,” he said. “I also ask you to consider volunteering at a veterans’ hospital or nursing home, and I encourage you to work with local veterans’ groups to help support our troops in the field and their families here at home. Many of our veterans bear the scars of their service, and we are a nation that must keep its commitments to those who have risked their lives for our freedom.”

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