West Michigan veterans celebrated at LZ Michigan event

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich.-- A big community event at Fifth Third Ballpark on Saturday honoring West Michigan veterans. It was put on by LZ Michigan, a group whose goal is to remember, honor and celebrate community veterans and their families.

A lot of organizations worked together with a common goal of supporting veterans. Thousands of people braved the heat to check out a Vietnam Wall replica, kid's activities, live music and other presentations, but mostly comradery with veterans of all ages.

"There are a lot of activities from the Wall That Heals, to kids areas, to the ceremony with the most recent Medal of Honor recipient James McCloughan as well as music and lots of presentations for and from community veterans," said Tim Eernisse, WGVU Director of Development and Marketing.

It was an emotional day for some checking out the Wall That Heals, a replica of the Vietnam Wall.

"It does bring up emotions," said Ted Roper, a Vietnam veteran. "It makes you think back to how all these guys could've been lost and it makes you sad when you think about it."

There are more than 2,600 names on the wall from Michigan.

"You see your high school friends on here," said Bob Woodfor, a Vietnam veteran. "People you associated with during your life, this is where you find them."

Also in attendance, Marine Corps veteran Jeff DeYoung, whose bomb sniffing dog Cena was laid to rest last month after being diagnosed with bone cancer. DeYoung now uses his custom Jeep as a traveling memorial for Cena, sharing their story to those who come to see it.

"I get to tell them about me and Cena and I have photos of our story and articles and things like that," said DeYoung. "I don't want Cena's passing to be in vain or forgotten, so our lifestyle and work is continuing, but more than most it's another way for us to reach out."

There were large scale maps of Vietnam and the world, so veterans could sign where they served on them.

"Go stand on that map and watch somebody that served sign their name," said Eernisse. "Ask them to share their story and you will be moved."

It doesn't matter where or when you served.

"Even generations apart, there's people here old enough to be my great-grandfather and yet, we're still veterans and we're still family," said DeYoung. "They are my older brothers and I'm their younger brother. It's cool, we joke about the same things. The generations don't matter. It's a veteran and a veteran. It's truly a family reunion, we just never met each other before."

"It's a change to say thank you and that we appreciated everything that they did and went through because we went through some of the same stuff, but we got treated differently when we got home," said Matt Williams, an Army veteran serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Williams would also be performing an original song later in the evening.

It's a chance for the community to thanks it's veterans, especially the ones who didn't hear it when they first came home.

"It's really everyone coming together and the biggest thing for us is not just those veterans paying homage to each other, but the community being able to step up and say thank you," said Eernisse.

 

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