By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
RIVERVIEW – From motorcycles rumbling into the park, to numerous American flags circling the perimeter, with the band playing patriotic favorites, the city remembered its fallen heroes May 28 at Young Patriots Park.
Scouts greeted guests with complimentary cold water bottles and U.S. flags, while the Riverview Community High School band, under the direction of William Beson, played a patriotic prelude prior to the formal ceremony.
Mayor Andrew Swift led a contingent of motorcyclists from American Legion Post 389, 17116 Quarry Road, to Young Patriots Park in a dignified procession belying the subdued thunder of a long line of horsepower.
Retired Riverview Police Officer John Price served as master of ceremonies, with a Riverview Police Honor Guard presenting the colors, along with American Legion Post 389 Commander Dave Gillies.
Bagpiper Tyge Cawthon of Dearborn was a new feature for the 2018 ceremony.
Following the invocation, Swift recognized dignitaries and guests, then Price introduced keynote speaker Col. Mark W. Thompson, a command surgeon, Army Training and Doctrine Command, and a Riverview native who graduated second in his class from West Point.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Thompson revealed that the cadet who was first in his West Point graduating class was Mike Pompeo, the current U.S. Secretary of State, who previously directed the Central Intelligence Agency.
Thompson said the nation honors those who serve in many ways: Armed Forces Day honors those currently serving, Veterans Day honors those who have served and are currently serving, and Memorial Day honors service personnel who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“Personally, I find this to be a very tough day emotionally,” Thompson said. “Everyone in this audience who has served or has lost a loved one often struggles with how to approach this day.
“As a soldier, I want to honor my fellow soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice, but I also find there is great sorrow that makes any ceremony or celebration very difficult.”
Thompson said to honor those who have fallen, first people should pray, to provide comfort for those still living. Secondly, he said people should make a sacrifice in their memory. Thirdly, he said a public ceremony is important, regardless of the sadness it may cause, to honor the fallen, and to show that their sacrifice has not been forgotten. Lastly, he said people should celebrate.
“Our heroes gave their lives to protect our way of life,” Thompson said. “A way of life that allows us to freely gather on this beautiful spring day, that feels more like a summer day, here in Michigan and enjoy each other’s company.”
Another Riverview native and West Point grad, newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Theodore Scott Lossing, who graduated May 26, was home on leave, and assisted with the Michigan flag during the flag ceremony.
Following a wreath presentation and a roll call, read by Army veteran Gerald Perry, a rifle salute was given, followed by taps, then “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])