Dearborn’s Memorial Day Parade honors sacrifice, women in the military

Ceremony Wreath Presentation 2Veterans Park and War Memorial site of solemn remembrance ceremony

for first time

Before fun summer activities like barbecues and pool parties can get underway, it is first a time-honored tradition in Dearborn to pay tribute on Memorial Day to those who have died in service to our country.

 At 10 a.m. on May 29, one of the largest Memorial Day parades in the United States and the oldest continuous parade in Michigan at 93 years, steps off.

The parade will feature more than 60 marching groups and hundreds of veterans. The theme this year is “women in the military,” and the grand marshal is Coast Guard Rear Admiral June E. Ryan.

Organized every year by the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council (DAWVC) and the City of Dearborn, the parade will also include eight school bands, community organizations, and a Coast Guard helicopter flyover.

This will be the second year that the parade marches west on Michigan Avenue from Maple to the Henry Ford Centennial Library instead of the previous route east from the library to the former City Hall.

This will also be the first year that the solemn remembrance ceremony that follows the parade will be at the new Veterans Park and War Memorial in front of the Centennial Library.

The memorial park, dedicated last fall, features the four 7-foot monoliths that were previously at historic City Hall Park. They are a tribute to the 340 Dearborn men who gave the ultimate sacrifice in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Before the parade officially kicks off at 10 a.m., there will be a 9:40 a.m. ceremonial funeral procession drawing attention to veterans who die without resources, are cremated, but are never interred, staying instead on shelves in funeral homes, sometimes for decades.

This year, unlike past Memorial Days, there are no actual cremains in the funeral procession. However, the ceremonial funeral procession will still honor all forgotten or homeless veterans. Their fate is championed by the Missing in America Project and the DAWVC.

Every year, the parade honors those who have died in service, and there is always a secondary theme as well. This year’s special focus pays tribute to women in the military.   

“Having served in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1980s, I saw advancements in recognition of women,” said DAWVC Commander Stephen Fletcher, who chose the theme.

“But they still were not fully recognized. Right now, women are serving side by side with their male counterparts. Recognizing women this year also brings to light the opportunities that are available to them -- college, leadership positions, pilots, and a slew of other jobs,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher, who serves in the Coast Guard Auxiliary, also extended the invitation to the grand marshal. Rear Admiral Ryan will lead the parade and give keynote remarks at the solemn ceremony.

Ryan is the Ninth Coast Guard District Commander for the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway and has served on ships and stations across the country.

She was a military advisor to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and was only the third woman in history to serve as a military aide to the president of the United States.

The Edsel Ford High School Marching Band, which also includes students from Fordson High, will provide music for the solemn ceremony.

The parade is made possible by the DTE Energy Foundation, Dearborn Federal Savings Bank, East Downtown Development Authority, Ford Motor Company, Foundation for American Veterans, Kroger (Michigan and Greenfield), and the Dearborn Rotary Foundation.

This year, the flyover of historic aircraft is sponsored by Les Stanford Chevrolet and Cadillac. 

The parade planning committee is led by Fletcher, and also includes Ken Preiss, Mary Husson (DAWVC chaplain), Ron Bukowski, Carolynn Mallia, Will Emerson, Alexandria Chambers, Anthony Mallia, Sean Green (DAWVC past commander), James Pease (DAWVC officer), Phil Smith (DAWVC officer), and Dawn Kaufman, among others.

To see the parade lineup, visit www.cityofdearborn.org.