War Memorial to honor new recruits and fallen service members

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 14, 2019

 Air National Guard Col. Rolf Mammen, of Grosse Pointe Woods, and U.S. Army veteran John Bates, of Grosse Pointe Woods, carry a wreath during last year’s Memorial Day program at The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms. The Memorial Day service is one of several ways The War Memorial is honoring veterans this month.

Air National Guard Col. Rolf Mammen, of Grosse Pointe Woods, and U.S. Army veteran John Bates, of Grosse Pointe Woods, carry a wreath during last year’s Memorial Day program at The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms. The Memorial Day service is one of several ways The War Memorial is honoring veterans this month.

File photo by Donna Agusti

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Military service personnel, from new enlistees to veterans, will once again be honored during a series of community events leading up to Memorial Day at The War Memorial in Grosse Pointe Farms.

High school graduates from across the region who are enlisting in the armed forces are invited to The War Memorial’s fifth annual Our Community Salutes, a free program May 21. The evening will begin with a light dinner and access to resources and information just for enlistees and their loved ones at 6 p.m., followed by the ceremony itself at 7 p.m.; the ceremony is open to the public, and people are encouraged to attend and show their support for the military newcomers.

Because each enlistee receives a personalized certificate, they need to register in advance. Jessi Kaminski, manager of communications and programming for The War Memorial, said reservations will be accepted through May 21; enlistees should also indicate which branch of the military they plan to join. She said they usually get about 80 to 100 students from across the area.

“We want as many students as we can get,” Kaminski said.

The enlistees event is part of the national Our Community Salutes program. Kaminski said the national office of Our Community Salutes supplied The War Memorial with a small sponsorship this year to offset some of the expenses related to this event.

“We continue every year to grow the event,” Kaminski said. “Being a part of the most important moment in (the enlistees’) lives (is great).”

She said they reach out to “pretty much all of the (high) schools and recruiting centers in southeast Michigan” to let enlistees know about this evening in their honor.

No registration is necessary for the public Our Community Salutes ceremony.

Memorial Week will continue with the gala An Evening of Red, White and Blue, which will start at 6 p.m. May 23. It’s a fundraiser for The War Memorial’s Patriot Initiative Fund, which gives money to organizations that honor and serve veterans and also supports patriotic programs at The War Memorial.

“We typically sell out,” said Joyce Russell, director of institutional advancement for The War Memorial. “It’s a very popular event.”

The gala will include music by The Thriftshop Boys, a gourmet dinner and a fireworks display afterward on The War Memorial’s lakefront back lawn. Retired Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, the adjutant general and director of Military and Veterans Affairs for Michigan, will be honored with the Spirit of Service award that evening.

Russell said there are three raffle prizes this year — a pair of his and hers Shinola watches, a necklace from Edmund T. Ahee Jewelers and a Patriot Theatre package that includes a private screening and concessions. Russell said they have more than 30 sponsors this year for the gala. Last year, she said, An Evening of Red, White and Blue raised more than $75,000. Over the last three years, Russell said, the gala has raised almost $250,000.

“Everyone is there to have fun and support the cause,” Kaminski said.

Tickets for An Evening of Red, White and Blue range from $185 for the full evening, from 6 to 10 p.m., to $50 for just the afterglow with fireworks from 8:30 to 10 p.m. Gala reservations must be made no later than 9 a.m. May 20. At press time, Russell said tickets were still available.

Memorial Week will be capped off with the annual Memorial Day service on the back lawn, which will start at 10 a.m. May 27. A reading of the names of fallen service members from the Grosse Pointes will be part of this solemn annual event, which is free and open to the public. Kaminski said about 400 to 500 usually attend.

This year’s keynote speaker is Maj. Gen. Daniel G. Mitchell, commander of the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command. A number of community and veterans groups, including the Grosse Pointe War Memorial Veterans Club, will participate. The Memorial Day program typically lasts about an hour. No registration is needed.

“The annual Memorial Day service is one of The War Memorial’s most cherished and reverent events,” War Memorial President and CEO Charles Burke said by email. “We’re honored to pay grateful tribute to our nation’s valiant defenders, those men and women who have championed the cause of justice, freedom and human integrity. Their patriotism and courage preserved and now serve to enrich the life of our great nation. That The War Memorial can play a part in honoring these patriots is humbling.”

War Memorial officials say they’re grateful for the support they’ve long gotten from the Grosse Pointes, but they’ve also expanded their reach to the larger metro Detroit community as well in recent years.

“We’re open to everyone from everywhere,” Kaminski said. “We’re obviously an area patriotic leader, so we strive for that in everything we do.”

The War Memorial is located at 32 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Farms. For tickets to An Evening of Red, White and Blue, call (313) 332-4075. To register for Our Community Salutes or for more information about Memorial Week events, visit www.warmemorial.org.