By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Wreaths were laid, a rifle salute was fired and a trumpeter played taps to honor those who died in the armed forces, in a ceremony May 27 in Champaign Park.
The remembrance, led by Allen Park American Legion Post 409, began with a prayer by Chaplain Brian Zakar and opening remarks by Commander David Noel Babbage.
Babbage acknowledged co-participants from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 552, including Commander Frank Puente, and acknowledged U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) before inviting Mayor William Matakas to the podium.
When Matakas attempted to rise, he discovered that the rear legs of his chair had sunk into the waterlogged ground, making it difficult for him to stand up.
“I don’t know if the ground’s soft or if I’m getting too heavy,” he quipped after the scattered laughter subsided.
Matakas said Memorial Day is a time for Americans to reconnect with their history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives for the ideals we cherish.
“Each person who died was a loved one, cherished by family and friends,” Matakas said. “Each was a loss for our communities and our nation.”
He recalled how stores used to close on Memorial Day, and communities would gather for parades and other celebrations with a patriotic theme.
“In some places, these ceremonies continue, as we see here,” Matakas said. “You present at this event remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. You come here to honor our fallen comrades by your presence. You understand that on Memorial Day we honor the ideals and values those soldiers stood for and died defending.”
He said that many Americans have lost this connection with their history, and some children think it is simply the weekend that community pools open, and don’t know why they are free, or who paid for their freedom.
As the wind tried to blow his speech off the podium, Matakas said, “I knew the wind would start, or maybe I’m the wind that’s making it blow around.”
As the laughter died down and Babbage approached the podium to hold the pages in place, Matakas continued.
“We in this country owe a great debt of gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives so that we can be free,” Matakas said. “We can start to pay that debt by not forgeting, by remembering what they did, and what they stood for.”
He closed with a quote from author and U.S. Army veteran Charles M. Province.
“It is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer who has given us freedom to protest. It is the soldier, not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”
Babbage then read the names of veterans of the American Legion Post 409 who died in the past year: David J. Allerdyce, Walter J. Bock, Arthur W. Brandel, Margaret B. Moseley, Gust P. Pappas, Delmer J. Perotta, William Petterle, Thomas J. Sheridan, Joseph S. Talamonti and Charles O. Tupancy.
Babbage then announced each person who in turn placed a memorial wreath by the city’s monument: Matakas on behalf of the city; Dave Botu on behalf of the Allen Park Elks Lodge 2194; Allen Liebua, Commander, Allen Park American Legion Squadron 409; Robert Gootee, Sergeant-at-Arms, Allen Park American Legion Post 409; and Kathy Donelson, President, Allen Park American Legion Unit 409.
VFW Post 5572 Commander Frank Puente led the gun salute with participants Gary Fleming Sr. and Gary Fleming Jr., followed by taps, played by recent Allen Park High School graduate and trumpeter Cullen Squire.
Babbage said that while the ceremony was brief, remembrance of the veterans was not.
“We remember our veterans that have served, and have given their lives to keep our country free, from George Washington to now,” he said. “We have the best country in the world, and that is because of the veterans that have served, who make our country better.”