Public Services director honored at Marine Corps birthday celebration

Hundreds of local Marines honored retired Oakland County Public Services Director Michael Zehnder on Saturday when they celebrated the Marines Corps' 238th birthday at the Best Western Sterling Inn in Sterling Heights. Marine Wing Support Squadron 471 Detachment B (MWSS 471) recognized Zehnder for his role as County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's point person to persuade the federal government to open the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Oakland County.

"This is a well-deserved honor for Mike," Patterson said. "The Great Lakes National Cemetery was more than just an assignment from me. It was Mike's personal mission as both a Marine officer who served in Vietnam and the member of my administration who oversaw our Veterans' Services Division."

MWSS 471's Capt. Steve Simmons said every year they choose a retired Marine who has gone on to great achievements to be the guest of honor at the squadron's Marine Corps birthday ball, the largest in Michigan.

"We're excited to celebrate the Marine Corps' 238th birthday with Mike. He's an incredible Marine," Simmons said.

"I am very humbled to be recognized by my peers, especially on the Marine Corps' birthday," Zehnder said. "But the real honor belongs to the 19,500 veterans buried out at Great Lakes National Cemetery."

Great Lakes National Cemetery is the second national cemetery built in Michigan and the 122nd in the national cemetery system. Located in Holly, it was established in 2005 with the first burial taking place on Oct. 17 of that year.

The Marines of MWSS 471 are based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Zehnder served as a captain in the First Marine Air Wing in Vietnam.

Published: Tue, Nov 12, 2013