When Larry Saville saw the pages and pages of photographs of soldiers who died in service that the Detroit Free Press ran in 2007, he felt like he had to do something. That something is the Michigan’s Fallen Foot Float. Each year volunteers come together for the Memorial Day Parade. They carry signs with the name and photograph of a Michigan soldier killed in the line of duty in the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict since 2001, with walkers divided by year of death.
The procession is solemn and quiet, except at times for muffled tears. The mile and a half parade goes through Downtown Ferndale and ends at the Memorial Mall on Livernois where there will be speeches and quiet reflection. The pace is slow so that those with youngsters and others who may not go as fast will fit in just fine.
A 12 person committee meets once a month for planning, and Lenny’s Copy Center creates the signs. The event costs about $1,000 each year and donations are accepted. Any extra donations collected are given to VA of Detroit’s Special use Fund.
Saville, who moved to Ferndale from Canada, is part of the peace movement. He believes this is a way for everyone to put aside political differences and pay homage to those who gave their life in service.
“I saw the spread of 188 Michigan soldiers in the Free Press and it just blew me away. I wanted to find a way to share my frustrations in a way that informed people without dividing them. The visual display of all the soldiers is so powerful,” Saville said. While he doesn’t know anybody personally that has passed, he has made personal connections with family members over the years. “We’ve had one family walk, maybe more. They don’t always identify themselves. But it’s very emotional for families. We hear from people who are really touched.”
One thing that is unique about the Michigan’s Fallen Foot Float is that they include some deaths that other similar sites do not. “I walked last year for a Major who was from Holly who committed suicide. Some groups don’t recognize suicides, but I think that’s a war-related death. This Major may have taken his own life but in my opinion he died over there.”
Last year there were 190 walkers, and some carried multiple signs. This year there are 226 fallen heroes to remember, and the group hopes to get 300 volunteers.
Anyone is welcome to participate.
Those who want to walk in the parade as part of the foot float should meet at the corner of W. Maplehurst and Livernois on Monday, May 28 at 8:30am. They should wear red, white and/or blue clothing without political, commercial or religious slogans or statements.
Check out their Facebook Page for more information. https://www.facebook.com/mifallenfootfloat
NOTE: An earlier version of this story said 266 fallen, when the total is actually 226.