The back-to-back tributes to World War II veterans that will be included in Detroit: Our Greatest Generation wound up a far greater success than could have been hoped for.  The elegance of the surroundings merely underscored the quality of the guests.
On August 17th at the Andiamo Banquet Facility in Warren and August 18th at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, several hundred veterans, their friends and families as well as local luminaries such as L. Brooks Patterson Michigan State Senator John Papageorge, Jim Fouts, Mayor of Warren, Bob Gillette of American House and Andiamo owner Joe Vicari.

The climax of both evenings was the first public unveiling of the now-famous, specially framed photograph of 720 World War II veterans posed in front of a B-17 bomber at the Yankee Air Museum, taken last May at Willow Run airport.

The emotional moments that highlighted the tributes are too many to describe, but the theme—the homage that this generation owes to the last—was well emphasized by the guest speakers.

Master Sergeant Jeff Rector, for example, spoke of his honor to be present among so many World War II vets, mentioning that he joined Army as a tribute to his grandfather’s ultimate sacrifice in Germany, where he remains buried—having been killed in combat during World War II.

Jim Fouts, Mayor of Warren,  next spoke his four uncles who served during this, the most significant conflict of the twentieth century, including one uncle killed on D-Day.
L. Brooks Patterson reminded us why Detroit was known as the Arsenal of Democracy and our special role in the Allied victory.

Michigan State Senator John Papageorge, his voice growing tight with emotion, saluted the crowd as only a graduate of West Point Academy could.  He recalls the war in vivid detail and as such, provided a unique perspective.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, accompanied by his daughter Mikayla, respectfully disagreed with the common ‘shoulder-shrug’ of these brave men—that they are not heroes, but soldiers doing their duty to God and country; he insisted that they are, in fact, not only heroes of the highest caliber, but that we are all here, in the main, because of their sacrifices.

Dick Stewart, president of the Yankee Air Museum explained in detail why this story—Detroit: Our Greatest Generation, must be told, while Sheriff Bouchard’s heroes remain with us, to be thanked by looking us in the eye.

The documentary’s Executive Producer Keith Famie offered a special thanks to Bob Gillette for the four vehicles from American House who delivered fifty vets to the banquets.  Though Famie didn’t realize it at the time, Gillette would, in the next few days, prove instrumental in arranging a return to Normandy with a World War II D-Day survivor, which will take place in September of this year.

In perhaps the most poignant moment of the banquets, Famie introduced Sam Offen, a holocaust survivor.  Offen, now in his upper eighties, spoke in a halting but sincere tone of a personal debt of gratitude owed to the American liberation squadron who freed him from Mathausen concentration camp in 1945.  “Very literally, they saved my life.”





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