Remembering vets this Memorial Day

Courtesy Photo Jeff Brasie appears in his U.S. Navy uniform.

This coming Monday, I will see if I can still squeeze into my Navy uniform and join Memorial Day tributes with Michigan’s 462,000 veterans.

Across Northeast Michigan’s four-county region, fellow veterans, family members, and dear friends will pay homage at parades, tributes, picnics, and dozens of other venues.

Growing up in this wonderful region, my mind reflects on Alpena’s Little Flanders Field and the U.S.S. Maine’s deck cannon displayed in front of City Hall.

In addition, living in Washington, D.C. for the better part of a decade, I visited the World War II memorial, the Vietnam Wall, the Korean War field of statues, and the memorial for women serving in the military. Crossing the nearby Potomac River, I attended the funerals of two of my commanding officers.

Having a three-decade-plus health care career, I had the honor of meeting and interacting with numerous veterans, some who have passed.

Here are some of my reflections:

John was a navigator on a World War II B-24 Liberator. On his 38th mission over the European front, his aircraft was shot down. He was captured and became a prisoner of war.

In the internment camp, the men were separated, with officers and enlisted men split up and organized by the country they were from.

As the war was coming to an end, all the American POWs were condensed into a single camp. In that camp, John met three of his college friends.

Kathryn and Joann were both Naval WAVE officers. One was stationed in Washington, D.C. and the other 3,000 miles away in Oakland, California. Both were intelligence cryptographers monitoring and breaking the German and Japanese codes.

Decades later, they met at the health care facility I operated.

When I was on the secretary of the Navy’s public affairs staff, I met Commander Lloyd Bucher, who was the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Pueblo spy and monitoring ship.

Bucher and his crew of 83 were captured by North Korea and held captive for nearly a year. One crew member perished. The commander and crew were constantly under horrific physical and psychological abuse by their North Korean capturers.

During that visit to the secretary’s office, Bucher was presenting the secretary with his book, entitled, “My Story.”

I cannot recall his name, but I met a former U.S. Army surgeon who served in the early 1990s during Desert Storm.

He was with a forward medical field unit. His accounts of having a handful of junior physicians, nurses, and medical corps staff were humbling and filled with miracles. It was a constant rush to get them stabilized and medevaced to a main hospital.

He stressed they could address to the best of their ability physical injuries, but, sadly, not the mental trauma.

My mind shifts back to Evergreen Cemetery’s Little Flanders field, where I can see the dedicated crosses of Philip B. Emerson (U.S. Marine Corps) and Frederick Wozniak (U.S. Air Force).

Wozniak is a Vietnam missing in action. Online Vietnam followers commented they still have Wozniak’s MIA wrist bracelet.

Last month, I honored Alpena High School classmate George Braman as he was working his way to Holly’s Great Lakes Veterans Administration cemetery.

At his viewing, close to his casket, was a prestigious Quilt of Valor presented to him for his Army and Vietnam service.

This Monday, the parades and tributes will be occurring across Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, and Presque Isle counties.

The bugles will play taps. The American and military flags will flutter. Hand salutes will be rendered and hands placed over hearts.

Tears will flow.

Fellow veterans will embrace each other.

Cherish the liberty given to you.

Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO. He frequently writes historic feature stories and op-eds for various Michigan newspapers. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on the public affairs staff of the secretary of the Navy. He grew up in Alpena and resides in suburban Detroit.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today