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 The Troy Police Department honor guard raises the colors during the Troy Veterans Day ceremony at Troy City Hall Nov. 11 of last year.

The Troy Police Department honor guard raises the colors during the Troy Veterans Day ceremony at Troy City Hall Nov. 11 of last year.

File photo by Andrea Henk

Veterans Day speaker to reflect on ordinary people doing extraordinary things

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 30, 2018

 The Heritage Concert Band of Troy performs “Armed Forces Salute” at the Troy Veterans Day ceremony in 2017.

The Heritage Concert Band of Troy performs “Armed Forces Salute” at the Troy Veterans Day ceremony in 2017.

File photo by Andrea Henk


TROY — Dr. Michael Paletta served in Iraq as the chief of flight medicine for coalition forces in Baghdad in 2007.

He describes himself as “not a hero, just an ordinary guy. I signed up and did a job as best as I could.”

Concurrent with his civilian medical career, Paletta served in the Air Force reserves for 30 years.

He trained at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and earned an aeronautical rating of chief flight surgeon. He logged operational flying hours in a variety of fighter and attack aircraft, and he has commanded military medical detachments in Europe and Central America. He served as the surgeon general of the Michigan Air National Guard for 12 years. His awards include the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Force Achievement Award, the Iraq Campaign Ribbon with combat device, and the National Defense Ribbon.

As the senior vice president of medical affairs for NorthStar Care Community, Paletta oversees a team of licensed providers giving care to over 1,700 patients each day through Arbor Hospice and Hospice of Michigan, guiding policies and protocols related to patient care.

In September 2016, Paletta was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to serve a two-year term on the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission.

When he takes the podium as the keynote speaker for the Troy Veterans Day ceremony, he will reflect on his belief that those who serve are ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

“It’s become cool to celebrate vets,” he said. “While nobody can be against that, the whole business of being a hero doesn’t sit well (with me). The guys who are heroes are under a headstone or suffering horrific injuries.

“We appreciate being recognized,” he said. “But recognize they are regular guys.”

Paletta said it used to be that everyone knew someone in uniform, but that’s not really the case these days.

“Military people and the general population get further and further apart, and don’t feel they have anything in common.”

Arbor Hospice and Hospice of Michigan, he said, work with vets at the end of life who have suppressed a lot of the trauma they experienced.

“They still can’t talk about it,” he said, adding that they are more prone to speak of their experiences with other vets.

He said vets who wish to work with hospice to help these vets can talk to representatives from Hospice of Michigan, who will be at the Troy Veterans Day ceremony, to get information or to volunteer to help other vets.

Cindy Stewart, Troy’s director of community affairs, said she and her family are appreciative and aware of all that veterans have done and continue to do to serve our country. Her brother Steve Johnson and her son Jeff Stewart served in the U.S. Air Force. Her grandson Calvin Stewart currently serves as a staff sergeant in the Air Force.

“One of our close friends, Mike Kerr, retired from the Troy Police Department and served in the Vietnam War,” she said. “We enjoy his stories about his service and are so appreciative of how he still continues to serve the community. He visits vets at VA hospitals and shelters, and epitomizes what a true veteran is and why we honor them.”

Troy Police Department Lt. Russ Harden — a lieutenant colonel in the Michigan Army National Guard, 210 Military Police Battallion, based in Taylor, where he’s served for 31 years — will emcee the ceremony. He is also a member of the Troy Police Department honor guard.

Harden’s daughter Lauren Halas serves as a first lieutenant and a medical service officer in the 146th Medical Battalion Michigan Army National Guard, based in Ypsilanti, and his son Joseph Harden serves as a specialist in the 125th Infantry Regiment Michigan Army National Guard, based at the Light Guard Armory in Detroit.

Harden has been deployed three times, once in support of Operation Desert Storm.

“It’s important to recognize the veterans,” Harden said. “We need people to serve. How do we continue to have a strong military if we don’t recognize those veterans and continue to perpetuate patriotism and service to our country?”

He added that he’d like to see more community involvement in the ceremony and community support for veterans in general.

Cub Scout Pack 1707, from Troy Union Elementary School, will lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

The program will include the raising of colors, a rifle salute and the playing of taps by the Troy Police Department honor guard, as well as the laying of a memorial wreath at the Veterans Memorial. Music will be provided by the Heritage Concert Band of Troy.

The public is invited to bring flowers, small flags and appropriate mementos to place on the Walk of Honor at the base of the Veterans Memorial to honor a loved one or all veterans. Commemorative bricks are available for purchase for $60. For more information, call (248) 524-1147.

The ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at the Troy Veterans Plaza, in front of Troy City Hall, 500 W. Big Beaver Road.