Saluting the Heroes Among Us
Trenton Engine's 'Salute to Veterans' recognizes sacrifice and service
Nov 09, 2016
Story by Ron Russell
Photos by Jonathan Powell
TRENTON, Mich. – Amid cherished military customs and great reverence, the Trenton Engine Complex said “welcome home” to its veterans with a moving ceremony that reminded everyone that freedom is never free.
It was mission accomplished for UAW Local 372 and management as they observed Veterans Day 2016 with a fitting homecoming for 145 employees from Trenton South and Trenton North who have served in U.S. Armed Forces.
They came off the line to be guests of honor at the first annual “Salute to Veterans” recognition program and lunch on Nov. 4.
An honor guard from nearby VFW Post 1888 began the robust, hour-long ceremony by posting the Colors, as the vets stood at attention, some of them smartly saluting the flag as if they still were in uniform.
“Congratulations and thank you for your service. We wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we have in this country without you,” Local 372 President Gabe Solano told the vets. “Trenton Engine is a family, and we should be doing more in this facility to recognize our veterans.
“This is a great start but we need to do this every year, and make it better and better each time.”
All veterans received commemorative pins and certificates of appreciation from the plant. The certificate reads in part, “We pay special tribute to you … for advancing the universal hope of freedom and liberty for all.”
The salute also featured a ceremony in honor of POWs and MIAs, as well as a presentation of a treasured personal memento related to the Michigan Vietnam Monument, signed by former President Gerald Ford.
“There are two things that bring us together on this historic occasion as we recognize our veterans: our dedication to our country and our dedication to FCA,” said LaMarcus Keels, Plant Manager at Trenton South and a 1995 West Point graduate.
“People in this country don’t realize the liberty we have is because somebody fought to preserve it for them. That’s why we’ve tried to give back the best we could with this salute to our own military heroes.”
Trenton Engine answered the call like never before to honor its veterans. The recognition lunch was a collaborative effort led by both Local 372 and Trenton Engine leadership.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, former Local 372 Veterans Committee Chairman George Turner helped to set the tone for the day with his heartfelt remarks.
“To all of my fellow veterans, welcome home!” he said. “There is no greater honor than to serve your country. We must never forget that freedom is not free, and it’s not something to be taken for granted.”
POWs and MIAs weren’t forgotten, either. They were top of mind during the traditional Missing Man Table presentation, a ceremonial remembrance of fallen, missing or imprisoned military service members often set up in military dining facilities or on special occasions.
A narrator, Turner’s wife, Sheryl, read a script that explained the symbolism of each item placed on a small table with a white tablecloth, set for one. An empty chair represented the missing or fallen warrior.
The poignant ceremony concluded with: “We will never forget their sacrifice. Remember! Remember! Until the day they return home, or find eternal peace, we will remember.”
Another highlight occurred when retired U.S. Army Major Barry Bomier, father of Trenton Engine Communication Lead Whitney Moore, presented the plant with a print signed by President Ford that depicted the Vietnam Monument in Lansing, Mich.
Bomier was a member of the commission that oversaw development of the monument, dedicated on Nov. 11, 2001. It pays tribute to 2,654 Michigan veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam conflict.
Ford was the commission’s honorary chairman and hadn’t become actively involved in efforts to build the monument until he was inspired during a two-hour meeting with Bomier and other commission members to use his influence to help with fundraising.
Two days later, Bomier learned that Ford had secured a commitment from then Michigan Gov. John Engler to provide $1 million to help fund construction of the memorial.
“This monument represents Michigan veterans who served and did not come home,” said Bomier, a West Point graduate who served in the Gulf War. “We have a proud heritage of military service in Michigan, and selfless service to our great nation.”
Bomier had given the signed print to Moore as gift. It had a place of honor in her home until she decided it would be a good addition to Trenton Engine’s new Veterans Wall.
“I thought the plant would be a perfect home for this print because I knew it would be seen and appreciated by our veterans,” Moore said. “With my dad being a retired major, veterans are close to my heart and first in my mind. This was my way of giving back to veterans who work in the plant.”
Material handler Zephaniah Broom, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the Michigan Army National Guard, was among the many vets grateful for the heartfelt recognition provided by union and management.
“It struck a chord with me – I didn’t expect something of this magnitude,” said the Local 372 member. “There was a lot of attention to detail, and I really did feel appreciated for my service.
“Veterans don’t seek recognition, but it feels good to be honored every once in a while.”