WARREN — It’s an issue for Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Bower.
The U.S. Army master diver doesn’t think the young men and women currently serving in the military, including those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, get enough acclaim.
“We don’t think of them as vets because they’re so young,” Bower said. “You don’t think of a 27-year-old man or a 23-year-old woman as being a veteran. They don’t have the gray hair yet or the vet hat.”
Bower passed along this message when addressing a crowd of people who attended a Veterans Day commemoration at Macomb Community College’s South Campus Nov. 11. The event attracted about 25 veterans, and many students and onlookers. Held inside the second level of the Student Center, the celebration honored veterans from all military branches.
Bowers referred to the young soldiers as the “Millenials,” a term for people born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. He feels the military Millenials need more support.
“All they have known their adult life and as teens was America at war,” Bower said. “Every night, there has been a body count. When the nation called, they raised their right hand and put themselves in some form of harm’s way.”
Bower would like to see them receive more recognition for their service, adding that soldiers enlist for different reasons. Once in, you’re always looking out for each other.
“It becomes keeping the person next to you safe … in a foxhole or overseas or in a building getting shot at,” Bower said.
When veterans first come home, “They don’t know how to be normal again,” Bowers said. “They still need help getting back into life.”
He feels the Millenials don’t get the best welcome when they return home, much like the Vietnam veterans.
Bowers, stationed at TACOM in Warren, works at the Selfrdige Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township. He has lived in many parts of the country, served in Iraq and was part of the relief effort after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
Originally from Sterling, Colo., Bower enlisted in the Army in 1997 and plans to retire in three years.
During the ceremony, MCC President Jim Jacobs acknowledged the observance of Veterans Day.
“We set aside our normal activities for a time to reflect,” he said. “We look upon our veterans with pride and appreciation.”
The afternoon included the post of the colors from the college’s police department, an acknowledgement of veterans with a recorded music selection, and a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” with Michael Lafferty. A similar event was held at MCC’s Center Campus in Clinton Township.
Early College of Macomb students Grace Alanskas, Jaimie Bell and Mackenzie Eddy were among those who turned out for the event. The students attend high school part of the day and MCC for the remainder. They were required to write a reflection piece for class on the ceremony.
Alanskas, a senior at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore High School, said many men in her family have served in the military. She plans to enlist in the U.S. Navy, attend medical school and work on a Naval base.
Eddy, a Fraser High School senior, agreed with Bower that younger veterans don’t stand out as much.
Bell, also a senior at Fraser, found the ceremony “enlightening.”
“I didn’t realize the Vietnam vets faced a lot of scrutiny for what they did for the country,” Bell said.
Other Veterans Day celebrations were held in Warren Consolidated Schools.
At Cromie Elementary in Warren, students invited military members of their families to enjoy refreshments, musical entertainment and a special assembly in their honor. The students also lined the hallways and applauded each veteran who walked through for their service to the country.
Another celebration for veterans was held at Hatherly Elementary in Sterling Heights. According to school officials, fourth-graders hosted the event.
Over at Warren Mott High School, students and staff participated in a GI GO Fund “Jeans for Troops” fundraising drive to benefit returning military veterans. Anyone who wore jeans last Monday donated $5 to the fund.
The school’s physical education classes held a “Hero Workout of the Day” in which students completed a grueling workout to remind them of what veterans endured fighting for our country. A short narrative was read explaining Veterans Day and then “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played before the workouts begin, school officials said.
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