Woods continues longstanding tradition of honoring veterans

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 20, 2015


GROSSE POINTE WOODS — The annual Memorial Day commemoration in Grosse Pointe Woods is a big affair, one that draws large crowds that include veterans and their families.

“We have been honoring veterans for 33 years,” Historical Commission member Suzanne Kent said in an email.

More than 500 people attend the event each year, which is hosted by the Grosse Pointe Woods Historical Commission. This year’s event will be held at 10 a.m. May 25 at the Circle of Honor on Vernier at Mack.

The ceremony will honor veterans who served or died in the Vietnam War era.

“We’re celebrating the 50-year commemoration of the Vietnam-era veterans who were so, I think, shamefully treated when they returned from service,” Woods Historical Commission member Shirley Hartert said. “They were so disrespected, and some of them got beaten up and spit on.

“It was horrible after they did so much for the country,” she said. “In some small way, we’re trying to give a token of appreciation for their service.”

As veterans from the Vietnam era have been contacting her leading up to the event, Hartert said she’s heard so many stories.

“It was my privilege just to listen to their stories,” she said.

The mother of Mike Manardo, a former student in the Grosse Pointes who wrote a poem about Vietnam veterans when he was at Grosse Pointe South in 1998, shared the poem with Hartert.

The poem notes the sacrifices that Vietnam veterans made and some of what they faced fighting the war. Each sacrifice in the poem is followed by, “But they weren’t heroes.” After the last reflection in the poem about how some came home in wheelchairs or body bags, he asks, “But they weren’t heroes?”

Hartert said it is a poem that touches on the issues that veterans of that era faced.

Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke will welcome the attendees to open the ceremony. Retired Sgt. Alger P. LaHood will be the keynote speaker.

Mel Stander’s Gentlemen of Swing and Ferry Elementary School Choir students will entertain the crowd with musical selections. Soprano and Michigan native Angela Theis will perform the national anthem during the program.

“The ceremony also includes a wreath presentation by local Scouts and a cannon salute,” the Historical Commission stated in a press release. “Veterans are encouraged to attend and to wear all or part of their uniforms.”

Kent said each commission member takes on specific duties to get ready for the event.

“We want our servicemen to know that we have not forgotten them,” Kent said in an email. “There is always a veterans photo at the conclusion of the ceremony. It is quite a sight to see so many men standing together at the Circle of Honor.”

Her job is putting together the program.

“We are really excited to have a flyover sponsored by the Yankee Air Museum,” Kent said.

“I like to put little bits of historical information in the program to make it more interesting,” Kent said. “I also like finding and adding a vintage recipe for people to go home and try out.”

Honor veterans
The Grosse Pointe War Memorial, 32 Lake Shore in Grosse Pointe Farms, will once again be honoring local veterans in a special service that begins with a musical prelude by members of the Motor City Brass Band at 9:45 a.m. May 25 on the back lawn of the War Memorial. Featured speakers this year will include U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence and keynote speaker Thomas M. Smith, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and veteran of the Gulf War. The ceremony is expected to last about two hours and will include the reading of the names of each of the local veterans who died during their military service. The public is welcome to attend this free event. For more information, visit www gpwarmemorial.org or call (313) 881-7511.