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Chelsea Honors Local Veterans During Community Ceremony

Friends and family gathered at Veterans Park on Sunday to pay tribute to military heroes.

Chelsea residents gathered at Veterans Park on Sunday to honor local residents who served in the military and those currently deployed with the Armed Forces.

Mayor Jason Lindauer and other community leaders took part in Sunday afternoon’s event, which included a speech by local veteran James Alford, and a performance by the South Meadows Elementary School students.

Chelsea City Manager John Hanifan said the service offered an opportunity to recognize the extraordinary work that military veterans have done to safeguard the state and the nation.

"This is the second year we've come together as a community on Veterans Day. Mayor Lindauer and the American Legion are the driving force behind the program," he said. "It's a way to honor those who serve our country. We were blessed (Sunday) with great weather and great turnout from the public."

Alford, a longtime resident of the community and former captain in the U.S. Army, said honoring veterans is something that should be done everyday.

"It is said that veterans write a blank check to the United States payable up to and including their life," he said. "The men and women veterans who are here today would have served in vain if we did not recognize their sacrifices. All veterans, since this country was founded, have fought and died so that we have the freedom to assemble, pray, to show our allegiance, and to disagree. All veterans that have gone into combat have given something."

Alford served in the U.S. Army for six years, flying OH6 Scout and UH-I Huey helicopters in Vietnam in 1969 and again in 1971.

Regailing the audience with stories of his missions, Alford said he can still vividly recall the men and women in uniform he served alongside with during the war.

"Who should we honor on this day? The ones that gave all, or the ones who died over time during the war and in years since? Both gave us the freedom to gather here today to honor the veterans," he said. "Many times soldiers want to quit and walk away, but they can't. They have a job to do."

Alford's speech was marked with dedication and reflection, and the tangible emotions continued at a toast to fallen and missing soliders following the ceremony.

For veterans like Iraq veteran James Ellison, the holiday ceremony reminded him how much Veterans Day has changed over the years.

"Without ceremonies like the one in Chelsea, I think people would forget about the veterans, as many people do. I'm here today to honor my brothers who have worn this uniform before me, and I will continue to wear the uniform as long as I can," he said. "It was a great ceremony today."

Washtenaw County Commissioner Rob Turner said the ceremony was a fitting tribute to the county's veterans.

"The sacrifices of our military are numerous, and we need to take great care to make sure that all of our veterans receive the housing and medical assistance they need when they return to civilian life," Turner said.

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