CADILLAC — St. Ann School of Cadillac students paid tribute to the largest turnout of veterans it’s ever had for its annual Veterans Day tribute.
Students invited family members who are veterans as well as all veterans of the community to the ceremony. Veterans introduced themselves to the students at the start of the ceremony.
Dr. Roger Bandeen, a retired Lt. Col., gave the keynote address, telling the students about the Veterans Serving Veterans park in Cadillac.
Bandeen, a former fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, is the founder of the park. He told the students about how members of the military are like a family.
“They get very close,‘ Bandeen said. “We fight together, we cry together, we bleed together, we grieve together.‘
But after deployment veterans would go home but the military family they had they no longer get to see, Bandeen said.
“How would you feel if you couldn’t see your brothers and sisters, and your mother and father?‘ Bandeen said. “It’s hard ... It’s not an easy transition.‘
Bandeen said the Veterans Serving Veterans park is being built for veterans and the community, but also to provide a place where veterans feel comfortable.
“So our vets who struggle have a place to go and be back with their family, it may not be the people they were deployed with, but it is still the military family who understands what they have been through,‘ Bandeen said. “So putting the military family back together is one of the ways we help our veterans.‘
The park allows veterans to share with others who have served and helps give comfort to the veterans who are struggling. Bandeen said St. Ann has helped contribute to the park by volunteering time and donating food.
“You guys helped the quality of life,‘ Bandeen told the students. “You give these guys hope and purpose, which is huge. That’s what the park is all about, restoring help and purpose.‘
He said the park is also there to help reconnect the community to the veterans.
“That’s huge, especially for our Vietnam vets who weren’t welcomed home,‘ Bandeen said. “By coming out to the park, by volunteering and helping, it helps get our veterans back into the community. They are a special part of the community.‘
The third part of the park is the spiritual connection, Bandeen said.
“We hope that this park will give those veterans who are struggling hope and purpose,‘ Bandeen said. “Unconditional love, that’s what God has, that’s what we have at the park for veterans.‘
Bandeen also outlined the plans for the park, including a 5k trail for races, lakes for fishing, a pavilion for concerts and more.
Following Bandeen’s presentation, students sang each military branch’s theme song, then gave each veteran a small gift and finished with a standing ovation.