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Vigil to remember Vietnam War’s missing soldiers

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published September 14, 2015


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — It’s been 40 years since the Vietnam War ended, yet former soldiers never forget those who fought and those who were never seen again.

On Sept. 18, Resurrection Cemetery will for the first time host a 24-hour vigil to remember those who have fallen, those who continue to fight and those who still remain missing in action.

This is the 29th year of the event, though it’s the first time in that entire span that this particular vigil will be held in Clinton Township.

Brian Bobek, president of Vietnam Veterans Chapter 154, said that due to aging veterans and the fact that many are in this area, a decision was made to move the vigil to a more central meeting place.

The vigil will begin at 2 p.m. Friday, with guards on hand in front of the Michigan Traveling Vietnam Memorial.

At 6 p.m., an opening ceremony will take place that will include a welcoming greeting from the township, courtesy of Clerk Kim Meltzer. Then, Master Sgt. Jeff Rector will say a few words to commemorate the occasion, and he will be followed by the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance and a 21-gun salute.

Every hour on the hour, 49 names will be read — those readings will respect the 49 men still missing in action from the Vietnam War.

As decline in age has decreased the standing guard time, a pair of guards will be rotated every 30 minutes — down from the previous 60 minutes.

Tim Burrows, director of Resurrection Cemetery, said the cemetery has had a great relationship with Chapter 154 over the years. After meeting and discussing what the vigil entails, along with accommodating different aspects, Burrows added he’s glad the chapter chose Resurrection.

“(Chapter 154 was) looking to find a new venue and they’re here for a lot of our other events, so it seemed like a perfect match,” Burrows said. “Not often do we keep the gates open 24 hours. It’s rare that we do. But it’s obviously one of the things that are important, with the (Michigan Traveling Vietnam) wall being here as well.”

The POW-MIA Committee of Michigan originally helped start the vigil at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens in Novi, and fundraising efforts helped build the memorial. The vigil has been unique to Chapter 154 since 1986.

“There are two purposes to it: No. 1 is to memorialize the guys who haven’t come home yet, but it’s also to bring public awareness that guys haven’t come home yet,” Bobek said. “We’ve sent them out to war and don’t want the government to think we can abandon them and stop looking for them.”

Bobek said the message being sent, to both citizens and Washington, D.C., is part of a long and ongoing process that has been perpetuated by soldiers who fought in Vietnam.

The vets wants a country that welcomes soldiers and young people, he said, and it’s because of Vietnam veterans that young soldiers today are getting their due. If the Vietnam soldiers hadn’t pounded tables for decades, the present would look a lot different.

“Fifty years ago when we came, there was nobody here welcoming us home. Even the other veterans’ fraternal organizations didn’t want us,” he said. “So, we went on our own principles.

“To some degree it’s part of a guilty conscience on the part of society. (People) realized (Vietnam vets) were mistreated and (society is) making up for it today.”

The vigil, which has been advertised in TV spots on local cable channels in municipalities such as Clinton Township and Macomb Township, will have a brief closing ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19.

The public is invited.

“We’re just trying to get word out to support it, and if we don’t we failed in that mission (to remember those lost),” Bobek said.

Resurrection Cemetery is located at 18201 Clinton River Road in Clinton Township.