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Vets, Macomb County officials encourage Loyalty Day observation May 1

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published April 23, 2019

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MACOMB COUNTY — “Freedom has a flavor the protector will never know.”

Those are the words of Fraser resident Mike Sand, who served as a U.S. Air Force jet mechanic in the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1971 and is the current public information officer for Fraser VFW Post 6691.

Sand worked together with Macomb County Deputy Executive Vicki Wolber and Fraser VFW Post Commander John Hogan to reenergize Loyalty Day, or Law Day, observance in Macomb County.

The special event runs from 10 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 1, on the first floor of the Macomb County Administration Building, 1 South Main St. in Mount Clemens. It will include various honor guards from around the county, as well as speakers including Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Macomb Circuit Court Judge James Biernat and outgoing Selfridge Air National Guard Base Brig. Gen. John D. Slocum.

Loyalty Day has been observed annually since 1950, although its roots run deeper than that. It is meant to reaffirm loyalty toward the United States, to recognize the efforts made by service members and first responders who have risked their lives to preserve basic freedoms, and to facilitate the educational importance of American history.

Sand said times have changed since the Vietnam War.

“I was on a plateau in the middle of Thailand. It was very surreal,” he recalled.

His father, a World War II veteran, decorated his bicycle “all red, white and blue” when he was growing up. But when Sand came home from Vietnam, the reactions were different than the ones his father and other vets received.

“We came home, grew our hair long and looked like Forrest Gump running across America,” he said. “I got a job in an auto plant, didn’t say much about my service.”

He moved to Fraser in 1974. In the latter part of that decade, veterans began to get more involved in groups and festivities like Loyalty Day — including parades in the mid-1980s in an attempt to both quell animosities between different generations and encourage the next era.

The irony was that after all the ire Vietnam vets faced, they are the ones who now keep VFWs and other military service organizations up and running.

“It was full circle,” Sand said. “With all the dissension today and all the hatred and finger-pointing and terrible stuff, my question is, ‘Who are you loyal to?’ … As veterans, we have a responsibility to promote Americanism and recognize our troops.”

Hogan, who is also part of the Macomb County VFW Council, is responsible for putting together the crux of the celebration. He said the last few years have been “low key” in terms of observance, at least on a countywide scale.

He wants all veterans from all organizations to take part in the day, while hoping for local students to learn a few things from the dedicated service of their elders. And while he acknowledges that the country has its share of issues, he is proud of being part of such a democracy.

“It’s not all about the military,” Hogan said. “It’s more about the awareness and getting people to understand what you’re loyal to and what you stand for. I believe partisan fighting is affecting people, especially the youth. We need to be united. To me, that’s what loyalty is all about. It’s about crossing the aisle.”

Wolber said the success of the challenge coin presentation last year, in tune with the county bicentennial, gave vets impetus to try to reach the masses in a bigger way in 2019.

The trio has communicated since February, reaching out to local schools and groups who would enjoy participating.

“We just want to kind of have it out there that we’re thankful for the people who give us our freedom every day and make sure that happens,” Wolber said, adding that Selfridge has been a large part of the community in terms of providing a healthy, safe environment and participating in numerous events.