The Rosie the Riveters Drill Team was on hand to celebrate the Metro Detroit Veterans Coalition’s Armed Services Salute. They were one of the few groups to attend in person since attendance was kept to a minimum due to COVID-19.

The Rosie the Riveters Drill Team was on hand to celebrate the Metro Detroit Veterans Coalition’s Armed Services Salute. They were one of the few groups to attend in person since attendance was kept to a minimum due to COVID-19.

Photo provided by Jack Riley


Veterans group celebrates Veterans Day remotely

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published November 18, 2020

 Although most had to watch from home, several veterans were still able to attend the Metro Detroit Veterans Coalition’s Armed Services Salute Nov. 8 at Roosevelt Park in Detroit.

Although most had to watch from home, several veterans were still able to attend the Metro Detroit Veterans Coalition’s Armed Services Salute Nov. 8 at Roosevelt Park in Detroit.

Photo provided by Jack Riley

 An honor guard leads a salute to current and former members of the armed services.

An honor guard leads a salute to current and former members of the armed services.

Photo provided by Jack Riley

METRO DETROIT — Recognizing Veterans Day Nov. 11 was a challenge for most people given the COVID-19 quarantine, but the Metro Detroit Veterans Coalition forged ahead with a virtual alternative to its annual parade.

Instead of a parade, a symbolic march was held and speeches were made by veterans and community leaders. The event was recorded and posted online so that others could commemorate the holiday with them from home.

“What it lacked in celebratory numbers, it more than made up for it with patriotic passion to mark Veterans Day in the face of a public health crisis,” said Jack Riley, the Metro Detroit Veterans Coalition chairperson. “We call it the Armed Services Salute because our organization believes that veterans inspire patriotism in a very unique way. We work with communities, citizens and active military to continue our service.”

The Armed Services Salute generally includes a parade and ceremony honoring veterans and is attended by thousands of people.

“Typically, at the start of the parade, we have a ceremony that starts at 11:11 a.m., which is when the armistice in World War I took effect. We then ring the bells of peace,” said Riley. “We then have the parade, which we hold every year and has gotten bigger each year. The next thing we do is a 4-mile run, which we started five years ago to bring citizens and active military together. Unlike most runs affiliated with holidays, this one runs alongside the parade. Afterwards, we have Vets Fest, which is a little party and expo for veterans to display things.”

The event was hosted Nov. 8 at Roosevelt Park in Detroit across from the Michigan Central Station. It was a notable location, according to Riley, since the station was where countless members of the armed forces first left home for training.

“This year was different obviously,” he said. “Our virtual armed services salute started with an extended opening ceremony salute. We were celebrating women veterans this year in particular. We contacted several key women, who received some of the awards that we always give out. This ceremony kind of became our main event this year since it was virtual. This was invited-guests only, so we could keep numbers under control and distance people. We measured temperatures as they came in and everyone wore masks as well.”

Female veterans were honored this year, something Riley said the organization has been hoping to do for some time.

“If you look at the stories of the women honored this year, their contributions to the service branches began as far back as the Revolutionary War, even though they weren’t officially approved for battle readiness until 2013,” he said. “It was a beautiful day and we showed off a lot of great women.”

He added that next year female veterans will be given focus again due to the truncated nature of this year’s program.

One such honoree was Retired Army Capt. Kate Melcher, who was the keynote speaker. She joined the military as a helicopter pilot following the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I think it was an open celebration of the determination of veterans,” she remarked. “Even in the middle of a pandemic, we can find ways to honor our veterans and service members. … I missed the crowds that are usually there, but I think it’s a testament to the determination of veterans that we will celebrate Veterans Day no matter what.”

A native of Saline, she now works at the Fischer House, an organization that helps veterans recovering after medical treatment.

“I can’t speak for other female veterans. Mine was such that I didn’t see many other women in uniform when I was in the service,” said Melcher. “The military has never been intended as a place for social experimentation, but it’s always been at the tip of the spear. White and Black units were merged before they were in the civilian world, women were given jobs they weren’t given otherwise in the military first as well. To have those doors open, it’s great to be able to get the recognition for the meritorious service we’ve been rendering for centuries.”

Several local leaders attended along with a small group of veterans and their families.

“It’s an apolitical event although we do have some politicians who usually come to show their support for the troops,” explained Riley. “(U.S. Rep.) Debbie Dingle was there this year. Detroit (City) Council President Brenda Jones was there as our grand marshal, even though we couldn’t have a parade. We had an impressive lineup of speakers.”

Video of the event was taken and a slideshow honor roll of veterans who took part virtually also was put together. They are available at www.mdvcmi.org.

“There were moments during the course of the summer when the virus that we had expected to dissipate increased its spread, and we talked a lot about how we didn’t want to be a magnet for people to gather and infect more people,” Riley said. “On the other hand, the thing that’s beautiful about our military services is the continuity and the role it plays in public life, so it was important for us to do something to honor our veterans and active military this year. So we knew we wanted to film a much smaller event.”