'It was our duty': Those who served honored at Memorial Day parade in Dearborn
Dearborn — Blue skies and balmy weather greeted military veterans and parade watchers Monday for the 96th annual Memorial Day parade in Dearborn.
A crowd lined Michigan Avenue near Maple to salute military veterans, paying their respect to all those who served in wars, especially those who lost their lives in service to the United States.
It was the first time in two years that spectators could give their salutes and expressions of appreciation in-person. The COVID pandemic sidelined it and other events as communities tried to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The crowd included local, state and national lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn.
James Preiss, a Dearborn resident, was among those who turned out to honor servicemen and women.
Preiss brought along a framed copy of an obituary of his neighbor Philip Gandolfo, who was killed in the Vietnam War in 1967.
“I miss him to this day,” said Preiss as he delicately held the frame. Gandolfo, who served in the U.S. Army, was killed by a land mine in Vietnam.
Preiss shared warm memories of Gandolfo, saying that as a 12-year-old boy on Dearborn’s east side, he looked up to the service member.
Patriotism and emotions filled the air on Michigan Avenue as schoolchildren in marching bands and military veterans walked or were ferried in vehicles along the parade route. A group of women paid tribute to the women who worked in factories making military supplies during World War II, sporting the trademark red polka-dotted headscarf and blue coveralls of Rosie the Riveter.
Air Force veteran and pharmacist Cynthia Boyer watched the parade with her daughter, Gabrielle O’Connor, and toddler granddaughter.
Boyer’s late husband Kevin was a Dearborn firefighter, whom she met in the Air Force, and she enjoyed seeing the group of Dearborn firefighters march in the event.
She watched as other veterans marched and smiled when asked about being honored as well Monday because of her military service.
“There are no words,” said Boyer. “It was our duty. We were honored to serve.”
For O’Connor, the memory of coming to the parade as a child was a high point Monday.
“We used to come when I was a kid and I would meet my dad afterwards,” said O’Connor. “It’s nice to see it back. You never realized how much you took the parade for granted.”
The parade featured U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff General Joseph M. Martin, Dearborn native and 1981 graduate of Dearborn High School, who served as grand marshal. Martin, a four-star general, is the third-highest ranking officer in the Army.
“I cherish the sense of community and patriotism that growing up in Dearborn instilled in me at an early age, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to recognize our city’s veterans for their service and sacrifice,” he said in remarks before the parade and ceremony.