DEARBORN – It’s an honored tradition in Dearborn: Before any summer barbecues light up on Memorial Day, the community first pays tribute to those who died in service to our country.
One of the largest Memorial Day parades in the United States and the oldest continuous parade in Michigan at 92 years, Dearborn’s event steps off at 10 a.m. and features more than 80 patriotic units and nine marching bands.
Organized each year by the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council and the city of Dearborn, the parade includes school bands, community organizations, flyovers of jets and historic aircraft, and hundreds of veterans.
Parade ends at Henry Ford Centennial Library
This year, the parade switches directions from its traditional route. The parade will head west on Michigan Avenue from Maple to Henry Ford Centennial Library, 16301 Michigan Ave.
Funeral procession for homeless veteran
Memorial Day activities will begin with a 9:40 a.m. military funeral procession along the parade route honoring a veteran who survived Vietnam, but 50 years later died without the resources to be buried. The DAWVC has held this type of funeral procession for forgotten or homeless veterans “Missing in America” six times in the last seven years.
As always, the parade pays tribute to those who died in service to their country, but this year has a special focus on veterans who have lost their lives to suicide. The parade theme aims to raise awareness of, and help reduce, veteran suicides.
Following the parade, the public is invited to stay near the Henry Ford Centennial Library for the traditional Remembrance Ceremony honoring all who died in service. The ceremony will be on the south side of the library, at the flag pole as the Veterans Plaza under construction on the north side of the building will not be completed by Memorial Day.
DAWVC Commander Sean Green said the solemn ceremony will include the military funeral ritual to honor Richard Peter Nokell who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1962-66 during the Vietnam War. He died earlier this year. His cremains were transported from Texas to Michigan.
After the funeral rite, the annual Remembrance Ceremony will include keynote remarks by the parade’s grand marshal, Stephen Cochran, a former Marine and well-known country music entertainer who works to prevent veteran suicides.
Parade brings awareness to veteran suicides
Cochran was severely injured on a combat patrol in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His long road to recovery resulted in depression, and through his own experience, he learned how suicidal thoughts can affect veterans and their families.
Green said his group’s mission this year is to bring awareness to the number of suicides committed by vets daily. The initiative is referred to as “22-A-Day.”
“The Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council is proud to partner with the city of Dearborn each year in order to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice while in service to our country,” Green said. “This year that tribute extends to all who those who have lost their lives due to suicide.
“I want to thank the thousands of community members and veterans from across our state who will join us on this day of tribute to the men and women and their families who gave so much so we could be free.”
Music for the ceremony will be provided by the award-winning Divine Child High School Falcon Marching Band.
Additional highlights include:
• A free concert at 7 p.m. May 28 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave. The concert will feature Grand Marshal Stephan Cochran and fellow country singer-songwriters Sam Tate and Tyler Jay Satterfield. Any donations will benefit the #Stop22 organization.
• Historic flyovers from the Yankee Air Museum, a B-25 Mitchell Bomber and a C-47 Dakota.
• Participation in the parade by Helen Kushnir, 90, lifelong Dearborn resident and real life “Rosie the Riveter.”
The parade is made possible by Dearborn Federal Savings Bank, East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, Ford Motor Co., Foundation for American Veterans, Kroger (Michigan and Greenfield) and contributions from participating community groups.
To learn more about the Memorial Day parade, including the parade lineup, go to www.cityofdearborn.org.