Clare County Review & Marion Press

Postcard from the Pines: Veteran’s Day and other Observances

Veteran’s Day is Friday, November 11. Since 1919 this date has been used, first to commemorate the anniversary of the end of WWI, and later to honor those who fought. It became a time to remember those who paid the ultimate price, and to thank those who served in the defense of freedom. The observance was quickly entrenched by 1921 and the interment of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Armistice Day became Veterans Day and a legal holiday in 1938, honoring all of the fallen from all subsequent wars.
In Marion, Michigan, as is their custom, the VFW will mark the day with an early gathering and few words for their comrades at the Veteran’s Memorial. The VFW does this twice a year, on Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. But our local veterans are remembered each day by passers-by. Many of us have family names chiseled into the gray granite stone of our wall and we do not forget.
The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC turned 40 this year. It has been nearly 50 years since that war officially ended in March, 1973. The competition was open to anyone over the age of 18. The winning design was submitted by Yale undergrad Maya Lin in 1981. Her design was controversial at the start and described by some detractors as nothing more than a ‘gash in the earth’. The design is simple; the names of each of the more than 58,000 fallen are written on a long angled wall of polished black stone in chronological order. The Vietnam War remains controversial.
As it turned out the simplicity of the wall is time tested and perfect. No matter how controversial that war may remain, the Wall is not. More than one and a half million people visit the Wall each year. Four traveling walls, each half the size of the stationary one, have toured the country for 30 years. They are no less emotional or impressive and enable those who are not able to go to Washington to experience a personal visit. The traveling Walls see steady streams of visitors and are always accompanied, day and night. No visitor need ever feel alone.
We visited the Wall when it stopped on the grounds of the Evart Historical Museum in June, 2009. It was a tremendously moving experience for us, much more so than we anticipated. And it was like that for a lot of visitors, many of them denim clad, graying folks just like us. Some brought their grandchildren and could be heard patiently explaining. Others, many of them Vets, came to find a name or two and honor comrades long fallen.
We found the name of Marion’s casualty, Leo Kotke. He was the son of Anna Maneke and the older brother of Dan, Norm and Tim Maneke. He was killed in Vietnam in the mid 1960’s. In the scheme of things Leo was a Marionite for a very short time. He was a son, brother and soldier for far too short a time as well.
If you are an old kid of a certain age, you also remember that November 22, 1963 was the date on which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. It has been almost 60 years, and if you were that kid of a certain age like I was, this was likely the biggest event of your young life; the one you’ve never forgotten where you were or how those about you reacted.
Sadly, there have been other such world shaking events since then, but none with exactly the same impact for me. This was the first great tragedy of my life. I will always remember how united and sad the country felt. JFK’s light went out too soon.
Our photo this week is a favorite this time of year. This was taken by a Detroit Free Press photographer in 1962. A copy was given to Walter Sturley of the Detroit Police, the man in uniform on the right. Officer Sturley is beaming because the man on the left, speaking to him, is John Kennedy, the 35th PODUS, who was visiting Detroit. The original belongs to my son-in-law Gene Sturley.

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