Parade adds ceremonial funeral procession

DEARBORN – The city’s Memorial Day Parade, the state’s oldest continuous tribute to America’s fallen, will start at 10:30 a.m. May 31 to accommodate a special ceremonial funeral procession — the “Hero’s Mile” — beginning at 9:30 a.m.

The parade, marking its 86th year, runs east along Michigan Avenue from Firestone to Schaefer.

The “Hero’s Mile” will pay respect to at least 15 veterans who died without resources and whose cremains have been left behind in Dearborn funeral homes without a proper burial.

A new state law introduced by state Rep. Gino Polidori made it possible for veteran groups to transfer their forgotten comrades to a final resting place.

Members of the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council did all the legwork and paperwork for this final demonstration of gratitude to the late servicemen.

They also raised money for and constructed a military caisson to carry the cremains along Michigan Avenue.

The funeral procession will end in front of City Hall, where there will be a ceremony to render military honors to the deceased veterans. Their cremated remains then will be transferred to a hearse and transported to a military cemetery in Holly.

The first-of-its-kind funeral procession for forgotten veterans and the parade honoring the ultimate sacrifices of America’s servicemen and women were organized by DAWVC members on the 2010 parade committee. They include Richard Fleek, commander of the DAWVC; Craig Tillman, senior vice commander; Tom Wilson, junior vice commander; and Joe Terry, adjutant. Ted Gagacki, a founding member of the local Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter, also was an active member of the parade committee.

This year, the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council has chosen five men with connections to Dearborn, and representing all branches of the military, to be the grand marshals. They illustrate the DAWVC’s chosen theme of “Hometown Heroes.”

The Dearborn parade is known for its flyovers, and this year is no exception. About 10:40 a.m., two A-10 jets from Selfridge Air National Guard Base will thunder across the skies of Dearborn.