Grand marshal saved 44 lives in Vietnam
DEARBORN – Before summer activities like pool parties and barbecues get under way, it is a time-honored tradition in Dearborn to pay tribute on Memorial Day to Americans who have died in service to their country.
One of the largest Memorial Day parades in the United States and the oldest continuous parade in Michigan at 94 years, steps off at 10 a.m. May 28.
The parade theme this year is “Medal of Honor,” in recognition of the grand marshal, retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, who received the Medal of Honor in 2016 for saving the lives of 44 men during a heroic rescue in Vietnam in 1967.
The parade will feature more than 60 marching groups, hundreds of veterans, jet flyovers and historic aircraft.
Organized every year by the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council and the city of Dearborn, the parade will also include nine school bands and community organizations.
The parade marches west on Michigan Avenue from Maple to Henry Ford Centennial Library.
The solemn remembrance ceremony that follows the parade will take place at the Veterans Park and War Memorial north of the library.
Forgotten veterans honored during funeral procession before the parade
Before the parade, there will be a 9:40 a.m. ceremonial funeral procession drawing attention to veterans who died without resources and were cremated, but never interred. In some cases, due to unknown circumstances, veterans’ cremains stay in funeral homes for decades.
This year, two forgotten World War II veterans who died almost 40 years ago, and a Korean War veteran who died 18 years ago, will be honored in the procession and then finally laid to rest in Great Lakes National Cemetery.
Also being remembered and laid to rest is the spouse of a World War I veteran whose cremains were part of the 2014 funeral procession.
Grand Marshal a hero
As grand marshal, Kettles will lead the parade and give keynote remarks at the solemn ceremony.
He served in the Korean War and in France and Thailand, and volunteered to serve in Vietnam twice after the United States sent out a plea for helicopter pilots.
He risked his own life by flying a damaged helicopter into enemy fire to retrieve eight stranded troops in Vietnam, and barely made it back to safety. Earlier that same day, he assisted in the dangerous rescue of 36 others.
Kettles, an Ypsilanti resident, was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest and most prestigious military decoration, by President Barrack Obama in 2016.
School marching bands a Dearborn tradition
The Dearborn High School Marching Band, under the direction of conductor Jeff Oshnock, will be the lead band in the parade and provide music for the solemn ceremony.
The parade is made possible by the DTE Energy Foundation, UAW Ford National Veterans Department, Comerica Bank, East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, Ford Motor Co., Kroger (Michigan and Greenfield), and contributions from participating community groups.
To learn more about the parade, including the lineup, go to www.cityofdearborn.org.0