Art Garrison named Dearborn’s Veteran of the Year

Public invited to Veteran’s Day Ceremony  Nov. 11 at  Ford Community & Performing Arts Center

DEARBORN –  U.S. Army veteran Arthur Garrison was named Dearborn’s Veteran of the Year by the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council.

Garrison will be honored at the city’s annual Veteran’s Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave. The public is invited to attend.

Arthur Garrison

Arthur Garrison

The Veteran of the Year is selected by a committee of past recipients of the honor. The winner is chosen based on initiative of helping others, especially veterans, as well as personal qualities of honor, leadership, compassion and commitment.

Garrison said he entered the Army because his mother made him.

“I got drafted by my mother,” he said. “She was the draft clerk in Dearborn at the time. She drafted my brother, my sister into the Air Force, and then me.”

Military Service

Garrison served in the Army as an enlisted 5 specialist, a rank similar to a sergeant, from 1967-70. He completed basic training at Fort Knox and was then sent to Fort Gordon, Ga., where he went to communication school to become a teletype repairman.

In April 1968, he landed in Vietnam.

“It was during the Tet Offensive,” he said, “so when I first landed, there were rockets and mortars being lobbed into the hangars.”

During his time in Vietnam, his main assignment was as a teletype repairman with the 5th Maintenance Battalion, with the 1st Logistics Command. He and one other soldier would drive around in a jeep across the open and often treacherous terrain of Vietnam as they rushed to assist the artillery units that needed their technical expertise.

“The artillery units loved us,” he said. “They couldn’t do their job without us doing our job first.”

Garrison said he was sometimes nervous or scared driving from unit to unit, but that overall he was just doing his job.

“I got lucky, and I’m happy and thankful,” he said. “I wasn’t an infantryman. I wasn’t out in the bush every night. I did have guard duty for a bit, and we got shot at. We used to say, ‘We owned the day and they owned the night.’”

After leaving Vietnam in 1969, Garrison was stationed in Granite City, Ill., and worked a burial detail at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

“That wasn’t the greatest job,” said Garrison. “But you did what you had to do.”

From there it was on to Fort McCoy for 90 days to work on communication equipment. He left the Army in 1970 to come home to Dearborn.

Coming Home

Upon returning from the Army, Garrison completed a few semesters at Henry Ford Community College before transferring to finish college in Wisconsin, where he completed a bachelor’s in mass communication.

After coming home for good from college in the mid-1970s, Garrison got a job bartending at the iconic Dearborn establishment, Miller’s Bar, before going on to work at Ford Motor Co. as a metal model maker for 30 years before retiring.

He has been married to his wife, Bobbi, for 42 years, and they have a son, Peter, and daughter, Amanda, and two grandchildren.

Veterans Member Organizations

Garrison has been involved in the veteran’s community in Dearborn for 35 years. He is a founding member of the James Huard Chapter 267 Vietnam Veterans of America, has been with the American Legion Chapter 364 for 35 years, is an active member of VFW 1494 & 2107, is part of Disabled American Veterans 51, DAWVC, and is chairman of UAW 245 Veterans Committee.  All are based in Dearborn.

He has also been the sergeant of arms, on the board of directors, and on the election committee for VVA 267; and for the past five years has been the quartermaster for VFW 2107.

Helping Others

In the years since returning from the Army, Garrison realized that he and his fellow veterans needed help. He believes today’s veterans are lucky to have resources now and that back then, a lot of veterans around his age had to turn to what he called “self-medication” to numb the pain from war.

“We didn’t have those resources,” he said. “We were lost ships at sea.”

Garrison and some of his fellow veterans decided to start the Dearborn Vietnam Veterans of America in order to provide those resources.

“The VVA is veterans helping veterans,” he said. “We don’t want the same thing to happen to servicemen and women today that happened to us.”

One of the most heart-warming things Garrison has done was to provide assistance to a veteran that he came across during Dearborn’s Homecoming festival years ago. Garrison observed that the veteran was alone and looked to be in despair, so he walked over to befriend him. That led to the veteran getting resources and an invite to the newly established VVA. That veteran now is very active in helping other veterans as well.

Volunteering

Garrison also has participated in an almost exhaustive list of volunteer efforts to help veterans. He has participated in every Memorial Day Parade since VVA began in 1985; the Homecoming VVA chicken booth and the American Legion 364 concession stand; and at various VVA, Legion and VFW raffles.

He has volunteered at the annual American Legion Hog Heaven rally, the Veterans Helping Veterans Dance, the VVA Annual Fishing Trip, the Christmas party for disabled veterans; and pop can drives and other donations for the Veterans Affairs hospital.

Garrison has bought clothes for homeless veterans for VFW and ALA 364 and distributed coffee and donuts to veterans returning from chapel services at the VA, and has assisted at the VA hospital carnival.

“He’s a good guy,” said former DAWVC Commander Stephen Fletcher. “It’s well-deserved.”