Honor roll: Veterans given their due at special program

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– Photos by John Meiu


PHOTO #1: A member of the 1st Marine Brigade during the Korean War, Bill Powers was among the featured speakers at the ceremony. Powers survived during the bloody 1951 Battle of the Punchbowl.

PHOTO #2: Those with special roles at the Veterans Day event were (left to right) John Heller, Mike Zehnder, Bill Powers, Dennis Powers, Mike Schloff and Sean Wilson.

 

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

With apologies to Francis Scott Key, the American lawyer who wrote the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Mike Schloff believes the U.S. is the “land of the free BECAUSE of the brave.”

Schloff, past  president of the Oakland County Bar Association and a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, offered the rewrite during a special Veterans Day program held recently in the Board of Commissioners Auditorium.

“There are 23 million living veterans in the U.S. and some 700,000 in Michigan alone,” Schloff said during the program, which was presented by the Veterans Committee of the OCBA. “They deserve our lasting gratitude and respect for stepping forward to serve this country during times of need.”

John Heller, a Navy veteran who survived the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis during the waning days of World War II, was among the featured speakers at the Nov. 9 event, relating his experience of spending five days in the Pacific awaiting rescue in the summer of 1945.

“Forty-one in our group went into the water when the ship sunk and only 17 of us survived,” Heller said of the July 30 torpedo attack by a Japanese submarine. “The rest were eaten by sharks.”

Heller was among 317 crewmen who survived the sinking, which claimed the lives of approximately 900 seamen aboard the Navy cruiser that had just completed its top secret mission of delivering the makings of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan in August of 1945.

Bill Powers, a sergeant in the Marines who was wounded twice during the Korean War, also spoke at the Veterans Day program, telling of his service during the bloody 1951 Battle of the Punchbowl, paying special tribute to all those who fought during America’s “Forgotten War.”

Mike Zehnder, a Vietnam War vet who is the director of Public Services for Oakland County, followed Powers to the podium, noting that “freedom is not free — it comes on the installment plan.”

His remarks were echoed by Sean Wilson, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War and a deputy with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, who was a member of the “Michigan Band of Brothers” that fought in the Battle of Fallujah, an insurgent stronghold in the war-torn country.

“It is an incredible honor to meet and to be in the company of men like this,” Wilson said of those who spoke before him at the Veterans Day ceremony. “They have served our country with great bravery and they continue to lead honorable lives.”
 

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