Monday’s bigger and longer 2015 Memorial Day Parade will have a stronger emphasis on remembrance this year, as well as prominently featuring the founder of a national organization for burn victims.
Starting with a 9:40 a.m. military funeral procession along Michigan Avenue, the 91st Annual Memorial Day parade will follow down its traditional route along Michigan Avenue from Greenfield Road to its end at Dearborn City Hall Park at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Schaefer Road, where a noon remembrance ceremony at the War Memorial. This year, these Memorial Day activities will be broadcast tape-delayed later in the week, but CDTV will air a two-hour Memorial Day special throughout the day on Monday.
Ryan “Birdman” Parrott was selected to serve as the parade’s grand marshal, and deliver the keynote address at the service. Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council Cmdr. Sean Green said that Parrott, who now lives in Dallas, Texas but was originally raised around the Detroit area (his mother Lisa Wolf belongs to Michigan Military Moms, which started in Dearborn), is a personal acquaintance of his.
“Most of our previous grand marshals were high up in the military or government, like an admiral, secretary of state or ambassador, who cannot understand the life of everyday people,” Green said. “Ryan is the guy like your next-door neighbor.
“Our city is not filled with dignitaries, it is filled with everyday people. Ryan can relate to them, and he can sit in the American Legion Hall or Lashish, and people can converse with him and not be overwhelmed. I wanted a grand marshal who was one of us,” he said.
The retired enlisted man and Navy SEAL started the group, Sons of the Flag, which advocates for burn victims. Green explained it all began with Parrott’s experience in the service (which included three combat tours in Iraq), when in 2005 his Humvee hit an IED (improvised explosive device) and shot up and flew 200 feet in the air. Parrott found his arms on fire, and after putting the fire out he found his team members suffering even worse fire and burns.
After his return from Iraq, Green said, Parrott talked with other burn victims, and found out burn treatments were not that advanced, so that was why he decided “to go this route” in starting Sons of the Flag to help burn victims, start research into more advance hospital treatments, and to finance these efforts. Initially the purpose of the non-profit organization was to help police, firefighters, veterans and paramedics, but Green said it now has grown in scope to seeking to help all burn victims in 22 states nationwide.
Parrott will be marshaling a “significantly larger” parade this year, as Green named several new units making their debut in this year’s event. The person wearing the crown of “Miss Michigan” had never marched in the parade before, Green said, as will this year’s winner and her entire royal court will be doing in the May 25 parade. Another new entry this year will be the high school junior ROTC unit from Renaissance High School in Detroit,
In the traditional flyovers of jets and historic aircraft, not only will flight formations of previous parades like the Yankee Air Force Museum (flying a B-1 bomber this year), he said, but a new air wing from Toledo, Ohio will make their debut this year. The funeral procession carrying the cremated remains of two veterans in a horse-drawn caisson will be accompanied by another parade newcomer, the drum and bagpipes unit from the metro Detroit police departments. Believing that people seeing the funeral procession in previous parades would wonder when the parade itself was beginning, Green put another new parade unit, the 338th Army Band (located in Livonia and Columbus, OH, and directed by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Ronald Kuntz) to lead off the 10 a.m. parade march, and he said this band will also provide music for the remembrance ceremony and military service honors after the parade.
“Our parade participants are growing because our parade has already grown as the oldest Memorial Day parade in the state,” Green said. “Our city is known for being patriotic, our city does take care of our veterans, so people want to be part of our Memorial Day parade tradition.”
For the fifth time in six years, the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council sought the remains of veterans who were unclaimed and stored at Michigan funeral homes, because they were indigent, homeless or outlived their family and friends. The procession and ceremony will bestow proper military honors and inter at the Great Lakes National Cemetery the cremated remains of First Lt. Lyle Martin Baylor and Pvt. First Class John Spaman.
Both served in the U.S. Army in World War II, as Baylor earned a Purple Heart serving from June 23, 1941 to Sept. 27, 1943 (born March 26, 1916 and died Dec. 9, 1979), and Spaman served from Feb. 28, 1943 to June 25, 1945 (born Feb. 17, 1903 and died Aug. 31, 1986). The Henry Ford will drive the caisson, and Detroit Mounted Police Division, Voran Funeral Home, Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf Funeral Home, and Great Lakes Transportation will participate with the funeral procession.
However, Green added that Dearborn’s Memorial Day activities in general this year will be going back to the tradition which had always been the theme of Memorial Day—remembrance. However, when this year’s parade “goes back and remembers the fallen,” Green said that the scope of remembrance will expand to take in everyone regardless of era or sex; not only the army, navy, air force, marines and coast guard; but also the merchant marine and first responders like police, firefighters and EMS.
For this reason, the parade and ensuing ceremony will also acknowledge and honor all Dearborn firefighters and policemen who have died in the line of duty. The Dearborn police department lists patrolmen Cecil Spencer and Andrew Cain, Lt. Louis Hinkel, Cpl. Norbert Szczygiel, and Cmdr. Dale Bernock; and the Dear born Fire Department lists Cheslaw Dowgiallo, Edward T. Moskow and Charles Srull. Since the Dearborn Fire Department also includes Melvindale, firefighter Ed Stritz will be honored as well.
“For everyone who was on line defending our homeland, they should be remembered when the only difference was they were fighting on our home soil and not overseas,” Green said. “I want a solemn ceremony, bring our veterans to the parade so we can see their faces, and educate our children watching them.”
The Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council Ritual Team and U.S. Reserve Funeral Honors Team will conduct the Taps ceremony in the remembrance service after the parade. After that concludes, the American Legion Post 364 on Telegraph Road, the Marine Corps League Post on Maple Street, and the Polish Legion of American Veterans Post 75 on Greenfield Road will open their doors and welcome the public; Green explained; so visitors can tour the posts and get to know the veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs will also be displaying one of its Mobile Vet Centers on Maple Street south of Michigan Ave. The VA uses the 30-foot center (which will be open to the public until noon) to help veterans readjust to civilian life, provide counseling for vets and their families, and offer some healthcare.
In addition to being commander of the Dearborn Allied War Veterans Council, Green, who served in the Navy from 1991-96, also chairs the council’s parade committee. The other parade organizers who are on the committee are George Harvey, Merrill Griffin, Nancy Dlugokenski, Bob Dixon, John Ruselowski, Gary Tanner, Bill Bazzi, Stephen Fletcher, Will Emerson, Greg Price, Tom Wilson and Phil Smith.
CDTV will not provide live coverage on Memorial Day this year, but will record the parade and rebroadcast it at 4 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, at 8 yp.m. on Friday, and at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Another 3 p.m. broadcast will air May 31. Patty Johnson Maurier, who is in charge of CDTV, explained that there probably could be a future change in parade route (though that is still to be decided), but the current parade route certainly cannot be broadcast live with the City Hall being reconstructed and the city moving out.
Instead, she said, CDTV will be broadcasting the “City of Dearborn Memorial Day Special” on Monday. As every year, the broadcast waits for the parade to start and proceed, Maurier said, the two-hour special will repeat all the filler segments which CDTV prepared to fill those gaps in airtime over the last couple of years, such as the interment of the forgotten remains of area veterans who had served. Other stories include the 2014 Memorial Service, a video tour of city memorials, information on veteran services from the Red Cross and Ford, Hiring Our Heroes program, Wounded Warriors, Veterans Day, Sons of the Flag, and the roll call of the fallen from Dearborn (including the profiles of 70 local men who died in Vietnam),
The program will air at 9 and 11 a.m., and 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on May 25. CDTV is Channel 12 on Comcast, Channel 10 on WOW! And Channel 99 on AT&T U-Verse. It can also be viewed via the city website at www.cityofdearborn.org.
To learn more about Dearborn’s Memorial Day parade, including the parade lineup, visit www.cityofdearborn.org, and click on the U.S. Flag Memorial Day Parade button.