Dearborn Memorial day parade special military honors, May 31, 2010

A beautiful morning made the 86th annual Dearborn’s Memorial Day Parade a thing to remember, but for no reason more important than the American vets.

Although primarily intended to commemorate U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service, it is impossible to avoid thinking about the veterans who lined the parade route down Michigan Avenue, many of whom had been wounded in combat and otherwise suffered from their war experiences.

As is traditional, the parade ran from Firestone, west of Greenfield, to Schaefer. Leading the parade were five grand marshals, active or former servicemen with Dearborn connections who represent the five branches of the military. They reflected the theme of Hometown Heroes and were comprised of  Col. Joseph M. Martin, commander of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team; Major Robert Seeley, 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard and a U.S. Air Force veteran and a Dearborn police sergeant;  Marvin Steigerwald, Marine Corps veteran;  Ron Blas, a U.S. Navy veteran and retired Navy reservist and Matt Post, a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard.

As in all Memorial Day parades, Vietnam veterans played a major role in the honorary celebration.  The highlight, if it can truly be called such, was the caisson that left the Police Station at 9:30 and transferred the cremains of 19 U.S. servicemen unclaimed from several wars, at least one dating back to 1914.  Master Sgt. Jeff Rector, U.S. Army Michigan coordinator for casualty assistance calls had the responsibility of transferring the bodies, which were contained in a single flag-draped coffin, to a place of honorable burial.

“This is a unique way of handling such remains,” said Master Sgt. Rector, “and may set a new standard for transferring our fallen heroes who remain unclaimed.  An Honor Guard and military chaplains will accompany the caisson for the mile-long funeral procession, and it will be followed by a fitting ceremony at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly …”

The procession was made possible by a recent change in state law, and is one of many that master Sgt. Rector, a Vietnam Veteran, has presided over. State Representative Gino Polidori, a Democrat from Dearborn recently sponsored the bill that gives funeral homes the right to properly bury unclaimed veterans.

Regarding the bill, Representative Polidori said, "It doesn't matter if they were drafted or volunteered or whether they served during war or peace, they put their lives on the line for this country. They were ready to make the ultimate sacrifice and they were left in boxes and cans on storage shelves. Everyone deserves a burial."

Three rifle volleys and a rendition of Taps followed the caisson’s delivery of the coffin to the podium on Michigan Avenue



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