Veterans Day Celebration Honors Birmingham's Military Heroes
Speeches from two local veterans headline ceremony in Shain Park.
Nearly 100 Birmingham citizens and other area residents came together Thursday to celebrate Veterans Day in Shain Park.
The ceremony, which started at 11 a.m. and took place at the Civil War and WWII memorial in Shain Park, recognized 18 local veterans of war. Co-hosted by the City of Birmingham and the Piety Hill Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the ceremony counted City Commission Mayor Gordon Rinschler, five city commissioners, State Rep. Chuck Moss and Congressman Gary Peters in attendance.
"We feel the defense of our nation is very important," said Christine Richman, Bloomfield resident and the DAR's second vice regent.
The event was headlined by two speeches by veterans, Robert Siewart and Dr. John McLaughlin. During McLaughlin's speech, fighter pilots for the Selfridge Air National Guard made a dual flyover of Shain Park, receiving a long round of applause.
In addition, Judie Cochill of Bloomfield Township led the crowd in the beginning by singing the National Anthem after the veterans had been recognized. Cochill also ended the ceremony by singing America the Beautiful.
"They keep calling me and asking me," Cochill said. "It is quite the honor."
Children from the Elias Cady Society Children of the American Revolution were also present to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge was directly followed by Jerry Hall, veteran and Corporal of the Birmingham Police Department, and Virginia Bennett, Regent of the Chapter, placing wreaths on the Civil War and WWII memorials.
"The flyover was great, the speeches were moving, overall I thought everything went well," said Barbara Balow, DAR vice regent and event chair. "I wish there had been twice as many people as we had, but I was pleased."
According to Tom Strempka, a Vietnam veteran of Bloomfield Hills, aside from ceremonies such as this one, people are not always so empathetic. "Today a gentleman came up and actually thanked me. It was the first time in 40 years I was every thanked for my service in Vietnam," said a teary-eyed Strempka.
Not only did one person say thank you to him today, but three. According to Strempka, he was first thanked at the Beverly Hill Grill, and then followed by another man who offered to buy him a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Strempka said when he first came home from Korea, people treated members of the military with disgust. After he was thanked for a third time after the ceremony in Shain Park, Strempka said he was floored.
"I oughta buy a lottery ticket," he said.
Strempka had served in the Vietnam War in 1971. His term was cut short when Strempka was shot and severely injured in an ambush in the Battle of Long Khanh.
Another veteran that was recognized at the ceremony was Birmingham resident Jack Fawcett.
Fawcett served in the Army from 1943-45, serving in World War II. He came out of the service unharmed and return to his wife in Birmingham.
"I left for the army on the front steps of City Hall," Fawcett said. "I was in five major battles, it was scary all the time but I managed to live through it."
He enjoyed the celebration, but thought it was lacking community members.
"There are usually 200 people here," Fawcett said. "And it's such a nice day."