Ferndale Veteran Reflects on Lifetime of War, Possibility for Peace
(Crystal A. Proxmire, June 6, 2021)
Ferndale, MI – Steve Lemelin has yet to see a day of peace in his lifetime.
“I was born with the US at war, in the final month of the conflict in Vietnam. My childhood was in the Cold War, in the shadow of Vietnam and all the issues that that caused the veterans of that war. … I was 16 when the first Gulf War broke out, and our modern war with real time reporting and nightly briefings and laser guided bombs began,” he said to the group of neighbors that gathered at Ferndale’s Memorial Mall on Livernois on Monday for the annual Memorial Day observance. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic there was no parade for the second year in a row, but the service itself carried on.
“I started my personal career in the military in 1998, and thankfully after last July I retired after 22 years,” Lemelin said. “I was a young specialist when the towers fell nearly 20 years ago and the US went to war. Now I can hardly remember a time in my military career where we were not at war.
“Think back before the TSA, The Patriot Act, war on terror, twin wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. Remember when you could meet your family as you walked off the plane at the airport. Hopefully that day will happen again soon. Maybe it’s coincidence or providence that by fall we will The ending both the pandemic and two decades of strife. September 11 of this year, the US will again be at peace after 20 years of war. It will start an era where we can again freeze the War Memorial and adding new service members to this monument… May they never add another name to this War Memorial.”
The ceremony featured several speakers, including Mayor Melanie Piana who thanked those who have served in order to fight for “a loving nation one that loves everybody no matter your background or where you come from, who you are.”
Pastor Jim Poole of Renaissance Vineyard Church gave the invocation, and enjoyed a moment of pride when it was announced his son Elijah would be following in his footsteps and attending the West Point Military Academy. Richard Gordon shared a bit about Memorial Day’s history, the Ferndale Police Honor Guard raised the American flag and gave a rifle salute, and the Ferndale Community Concert Band performed.
Roy Tierney of Berkley was among those who came for the program. His father Glen Tierney passed away in October. Both his father and his grandfather had served in the military, with his father serving on a ship in the Navy during Vietnam and his grandfather in the Navy in World War II.
“My grandpa died when I was young, but I know he was a proud vet,” Tierney said. “We have their names here on bricks to remember them, and I thought I should come see those today.”
The Memorial features bricks with names along the walkway, and larger features that list the names of those that died in conflict for each war. There’s also a place where the names of veterans who died over the past year are displayed, including Tireney’s.
There were also 1,000 American Flags placed at the Memorial by the Ferndale Elks. “Typically we hand out flags to kids or anyone who wants them at the parade,” said Oscar Renautt, Leading Knight and Public Relations Chair for the group. “This year we still wanted to do something so we had volunteers come and put them out here to add something special to the memorial this year since there is no parade.”
Lemelin took a moment to talk about the Memorial Association, and to stress the need for new volunteers and younger voices in the organization. Those that want to be involved in future parade planning and maintaining the memorial can contact him at Stephen.Lemelin@gmail.com.