DEARBORN – The city and the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council once again will pay tribute to those who lost their lives in service of this country, by presenting the annual Memorial Day Parade and Remembrance Ceremony May 27.
This year’s parade theme is “Gold Star Families” — families who have lost a member while on active duty, including in combat. This year’s grand marshal is a person who knows first-hand about that loss.
Dan Robinson became a Gold Star father when he lost his son on Aug. 6, 2011.
His son Heath, a highly-decorated Navy SEAL, was killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was struck by a rocket propelled grenade while his team was attempting to reinforce U.S. Army Rangers who were under fire. A total of 30 Americans died that day, making it the single largest loss of Special Forces lives in U.S. history.
DAWVC Commander Bill Bazzi said he selected Dan Robinson as the grand marshal because he has worked tirelessly telling his son’s story, and offering support to other Gold Star Families.
“I just wanted to make sure that we recognize him, and he does so much to honor his son’s death,” Bazzi said. “When I talked to him, I was very humbled by his story and his son’s story.”
Heath Robinson was a senior chief special warfare operator, Navy SEAL. He was a combat veteran who served on the West Coast and East Coast special warfare units.
He served for 15 years, joining the U.S. Navy immediately after graduating Petoskey High School in 1995.
Throughout his service, Heath Robinson was the recipient of the Silver Star. His other accommodations include three Bronze Star Medals with “V” for valor, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, three Purple Heart Medals, two presidential unit citations, and several more personal and unit decorations.
He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full honors.
The loss of his son in 2011 inspired Dan Robinson to begin traveling throughout the country, speaking at many different venues. He’s spoken at military installations and at many major corporations. He has also spoken at universities, churches, schools, each time promoting support for Gold Star Families. He also advocates for Blue Star Families, which are families that have a current member in the military.
This work also has afforded him the opportunity to meet with many dignitaries, including President Donald Trump, Gen. Jim Mattis, Adm. Michael Mullen, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and several other officers and master chiefs from around the United States. He also has met with hundreds of military personnel, including officers and enlisted service members.
Robinson has been able to work with many esteemed military programs, including the Navy SEAL Foundation, Honor Flight, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, the Travis Manion Foundation, the National American Legion, and Hillsdale College, as well as numerous high school outreach programs, community groups, and other Gold Star Family support groups. He sits on several boards for nonprofits that work to raise money for Blue Star and Gold Star families.
Robinson spends a large portion of his time connecting with military men and women, as well as meeting with Gold Star Families.
“We’ll go to these functions where they bring all the families and it’s a reunion,” he said. “We speak about our sons, we have a lot of laughs, but there are also a lot of tears. Within that, that’s the healing process.”
Speaking with the Gold Star Families, he said, renewed his outlook on military service.
“This is giving me a new perspective on our military personnel and what their jobs consist of for their careers,” he said. “They’re like you and me, mostly. They’re just kids. They’re doing a job that most of us don’t understand or didn’t want to take that career step.”
Dan Robinson, a Michigan native, hails from a long line of military service — his father is a World War II Navy veteran who served in the Pacific Ocean theater, and his mother was a “Rosie the Riveter,” creating large shell casings for battleships.
As grand marshal, Robinson will lead the 95th annual Dearborn Memorial Day Parade, the oldest continuous parade in Michigan.
“I’m not one very often to be at a loss for words, but I just didn’t know what to say,” Robinson said. “It really is an honor to have been selected for this privilege. I’m impressed by the caliber of past grand marshals in Dearborn, and humbled to be selected.”
On May 27, the parade will be preceded by a 9:40 a.m. funeral procession in honor of veterans who served, returned home, and at the end of their life did not have the resources or family members to be buried.
At 10 a.m., the parade will proceed along Michigan Avenue, starting at Maple Street near the City Hall Artspace Lofts, and move west to end at the Henry Ford Centennial Library.
At noon, there will be a solemn Remembrance Ceremony at the Veterans Park and War Memorial in front of the library. Robinson will offer keynote remarks.
More about the parade theme
DAWVC Commander Bazzi said the theme was chosen because the veterans wanted to recognize how deeply families are affected by their loved ones’ military service, especially for Gold Star Families.
Even when family members return safely, however, there is still an impact that’s not always recognized by civilians.
“We know the families sacrifice a lot for their loved ones,” he said. As a veteran himself, the theme is something he can personally relate to.
“First-hand, I saw my family suffer when I was deployed,” he said. “Not knowing where you’re at, not knowing if you’re going to come home.
“I saw the ways the families suffered and I just want to show respect to the families and show them that we care.”
More about Dan Robinson
Dan Robinson has a degree in analytical business marketing and communication, and has worked with several major corporations with training and teaching business procedures, including the United Parcel Service and General Motors Corp. He has also written curriculums for auditory marketing.
In the late 1990s, Robinson moved into the finance world where he began work in mortgages, employing numerous employees and reaching out to at least 10 states. His focus was on helping military personnel to buy homes, which Robinson found gratifying.
Due to the financial crisis in 2008, Robinson closed his offices and began a consulting business, which he continued until his son’s death in 2011.