Longest Running Memorial Day Parade Leaves Ferndale Guest Speaker Awestruck
(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 27, 2019)
Ferndale, MI – Captain Daniel Rice of the US Army and National Guard was honored to be invited to speak at the longest running Memorial Day Parade in Michigan. It was the 101st year for the Ferndale Memorial Day parade, and the community came together as usual for an event that is a mix of solemn and cheerful as residents thank those who died in military service.
“This is a great shindig,” he said. “I’m kind of awestruck here.”
The morning began with a parade along Woodward Avenue and W. Nine Mile Road through Downtown Ferndale. The parade included music from the Ferndale High School and Middle School Bands.
There were families on decorated bicycles, community groups like Drayton Avenue Co-Op, Peace Action Michigan, and the Ferndale Beautification Commission.
And at the end of the parade scores of people marched silently as part of the Michigan’s Fallen Foot Float – holding signs bearing the names and faces of Michiganders who have died in service since the Gulf War began.
“When I was young I remember it was a four day weekend. It was planting season. It was barbecue season. It was camping season,” Rice said. “As I’ve aged I’ve gained knowledge. I’ve seen war. I’ve gained the sorrow that comes from that.”
Rice served as a Notification Officer. It was his job to go to the homes of loved ones after a soldier died.
“I can’t explain to you how tough that is, but again, they were all fighting for freedom.”
He said that no matter what people may think about war and the reasons behind it, “every soldier I’ve met, from my experience, has had in their hearts to provide freedom for their families back home. …We take these [freedoms] for granted very often. …These service members who died fighting for it, wanted you to have freedom…to enjoy it…They want you to smile, to laugh, to enjoy time with family.”
Speaking about Memorial Day and the meaning of freedom, Rice’s voice cracked and his eyes watered up. Since 1775, more than 1.3 million have died in the US Armed Forces. Rice shared this statistic, and said that “a family from Ferndale has had a soldier that fought – and died – in every war.”
Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter was also part of the ceremony. “We may no longer be able to see our heroes with our own eyes,” he said. But he urged the crowd to carry forth the values that American heroes have died for. “Justice, community, equality, freedom,” he said. “As long as we remain committed to these things, their spirit lives on.”
Rice was simply moved. “I’m supposed to be the speaker,” he said. “But I don’t know how I can show you a better sense of community than you already have right here.”
The Ferndale Memorial Association hosts the parade and maintains Memorial Park in the median of Livernois just south of Nine Mile. For information on how to be involved in future Memorial activities, email email@example.com