This Sunday at 11 a.m., you may hear a wave of bells splashing across our city, and our region. They are being rung in remembrance and will mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, a treaty that was meant to end all wars and bring a lasting peace. It occurred on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, during the 11th month.
Well, as we all know, peace is not a durable thing. Young men and woman have answered the call to serve our nation and preserve the values that our founding fathers proclaimed when they formed this perfect union, for the 100 years since. All too many have given their lives to that cause, so that we may live free and pursue our happiness.
November 11, a date that was once called Remembrance Day, was declared Veterans Day years ago to celebrate those men and women who dedicate a portion of their time on this planet to the cause of pursuing that lasting peace and protecting the one nation on earth dedicated to freedom, justice and inclusion in our government. And while those ideals are still a work in progress, the sacrifice and honor to serve them is real and now and present.
I must say it saddens me then to see over a thousand of our worthy veterans march in the streets of Detroit each Veterans Day in relative anonymity. As parades go, it has all the elements that make it a spectacle worth lining up to see. Uniformed marchers, hundreds of cool motorcycles, floats, marching bands, and this year the world-famous Shrine Children’s Hospital Parade Unit.
The Metropolitan Detroit Veterans Coalition (MDVC), an admittedly, rag tag group of volunteers that I find myself leading, has put this parade on for 13 years. The mission of the MDVC is to inspire patriotism through solidarity with our nation’s veterans. You see, we believe that patriotism, real authentic, value-based patriotism, not the wear it on your sleeve to sell something patriotism, is what binds communities. It’s what creates a common language, a common understanding and a common cause…lasting peace.
Four years ago, the MDVC added Vets Fest to the parade as way to invite communities to come together after the parade and celebrate together with veterans in music and food and family friendly fun. Three years ago, with the support of Wins for Warriors Foundation, founded by Justin Verlander, we added the 4Star 4Mile Race, a dream of local race organizer and decorated Vietnam Veteran Doug Howell. This race is emblematic of the theme for the day as it is not a race that runs before or after the Veterans Day Parade, but instead runs alongside it, in solidarity with our veterans. It is an emotional experience unlike any other in road racing.
When you hear those bells this Sunday, my hope is that you are lining the streets at the start of the event we now call the Armed Services Salute, at Cass Park. Or perhaps you will be at Grand Circus Park where the Shrine Units will perform, or lining Woodward in the Foxtown area to watch and salute as the parade and runners snake their way through the route. Afterward, you can stroll up to Cass Park for the Vets Fest with music, food and fun. Or maybe you will be one of the runners toeing the line, twitching to start one of the best runs of your life.
Consider this an invitation to help inspire patriotism in our region and salute those that serve and that have served at the Armed Services Salute, this Sunday in downtown Detroit. You, and your family will be glad you did.
By the way, those bells you will hear at 11 hundred hours on Sunday, 11 November, are called the Bells of Peace. They will toll nationwide.
Jack Riley is chairman of the Metropolitan Detroit Veterans Coalition.