GOLD STAR EVENT: Bay City Dedicates Michigan’s First Monument
Medal of Honor Winner Woody Williams Urges National Gold Star Day Sept. 30
By Dave Rodgers
Bay City’s historic Battery Park saw a crowd estimated at several hundred dedicate the state’s first Gold Star monument, the first in the nation to use the words “Gold Star Families and Relatives.”

Dr. Tim Eckstein, organizer of the project along with Bay Veterans Foundation president Keith Markstrom, presided at Saturday’s dedication. A number of members of Gold Star families, who have lost a son or daughter in combat, were on hand for the dedication of the black granite $40,000 monument that sits proudly in the middle of the park.

Fundraising remains in progress to collect enough for permanent maintenance of the monument and the park, which features two replica Civil War cannon recalling the original guns from Fort Sumter that were placed in the park in 1907 after they were obtained by Congressman George A. Loud, of Oscoda, from a friendly colleague from South Carolina. That cannon, and four others from the Civil War that had been placed on the front lawn of City Hall, were donated to the war effort in 1942 and melted down for armaments.

The project was inspired by Hershel “Woody” Williams, whose Medal of Honor Foundation aims to have such monuments in every state across the nation. Bay City’a monument is number 25, Williams pointed out in remarks delivered on a windy, chilly Saturday, Sept. 30.

Williams, who was an honored guest at the Bay City event, turns age 94 Monday. He is the last surviving Medal of Honor winner of 27 men honored for actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The citation that was read when he received the nation’s highest military honor from Pres. Harry Truman noted that his “unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided in enabling his company to reach its objective.”

Commenting that the nation has long honored Gold Star mothers but failed to recognize the fathers and families, he proposed that Sept. 30 be recognized as a national “Gold Star Families” holiday.

“We have Memorial Day, where we remember our veterans and pay tribute to them,” he said, calling on Congress and state legislatures to embrace the campaign. “This day, the last Sunday of September should be a national holiday for America.”We will not ever forget the sacrifice these loved ones have made so we can be free in America.”

Williams, who stands 5 foot 6 inches, was initially rejected for being too short when he tried to enlist in the Marines. He had been serving in a Montana CCC camp when the war broke out and technically was in the Army. But he wanted to be a Marine instead.

Finally, after pointing out that Napoleon Bonaparte, the famed French military commander also was only 5 foot 6 inches tall, he was accepted by a Marine Reserve unit in Charleston, West Virginia.

As it turned out, Corporal Williams stood at least 10-feet tall in courage when he took out Japanese pillboxes, one by shoving his flamethrower into the barrel of an enemy gun as he stood atop a heavily fortified pillbox at Iwo Jima.

Gold Star Families are defined as a person who has lost a loved one during military service, said Mr. Markstrom at the groundbreaking for the Gold Star monument April 27.

“This Monument is a reflection of the support we have to those families who have made ‘the ultimate sacrifice’ for our freedom. It is our goal to ensure those families know their loved ones will never be forgotten and will have a dedicated place to honor their memory and bravery.”


Flag Pole
Saturday, October 29 at 10:00 AM

Due to the generous donation by the BVF of a flag pole at the new Brian’s House location, 664 W. Nebobish Road, Essexville, MI., a flag now waves. The Bay County Veterans Honor Guard present the colors for the first time on the new flag pole.
A special thank you to the Bay Veterans Foundation for making this all possible.

George Walker, Treasurer
Brian’s House Community Group, Inc.



Restored Battery Park Dedication Held

June 22, 2016 From MyBayCity.    by Dave Rogers


It was an event that featured remarks by 91-year-old Donald J. Carlyon, retired president of Delta College and library trustee, whose vision for the park was being fulfilled right there in front of the Jack and Alice Wirt Library.

City Manager Rick Finn recalled that it was Carlyon, a veteran of three branches of the service, who sparked the restoration to rekindle the pride of a community after the park had virtually been subsumed when the library was built in 2004.

Mr. Finn noted the highly effective cooperation between the City of Bay City, County of Bay and Bay County Library System, coordinated by the Bay Veterans Foundation (BVF), that achieved the restoration in a very short time. The $125,000 project was financed by private donations.

Mr. Freiwald, of Freiwald-Staudacher Design, Saginaw, designed the historical kiosk, built by Delta College students under Dave Bledsoe, retired construction management director at the college, now gracing the southwest quadrant of the park. The kiosk approximates the 19th-century guard shack that was used for traffic control in the 1880s when Pere Marquette railroad trains steamed across Center Avenue to the nearby depot. The restored prairie-style depot is now home to the Bay Area Community Foundation, a wellspring of educational improvement.

Library System director Trish Burns, Jerry Somalski of Bay Landscaping, Mike Finelli of Delta College and Paul Begick of Begick Nursery also contributed to the planning of the restoration.

Other park development was by Darwin Baranski, director of city parks; the Bay city Department of Public Works, and Bay City Power & Light. The Bay County Road Commission and Dobson Industrial Van Haaren division expertise accomplished the heavy lifting of the guard shack/kiosk and the cannons were transported by employees of Bay Cast Inc.

The Hartford cannon’s concrete pad was given a historical look by Jeff Switala of Bay County buildings and grounds, Nelson Niederer constructed a historically accurate wood platform and carriage for the 13 inch Seacoast Mortar.

Dr. Tim Eckstein, a Bay City resident, retired Navy captain and director of occupational medicine at Covenant Health Care, had made careful arrangements as chairman of the momentous ceremony. Dr. Eckstein is a board member of the BVF.

It was a reprise of a historical event of 109 years ago when Bay City area Member of Congress George A. Loud of Oscoda addressed veterans of the Civil War and Spanish-American War in a stirring tribute to their service.

The grizzled veterans of that epic internecine struggle, the Civil War, that had occurred 50 years earlier no doubt never forgot the ceremony in the heart of Bay City where surrounded by townsfolk who honored them, they saluted their flag, the Stars, and Stripes that fluttered all about.

That event, June 12, 1907, was held to celebrate the placement of four cannon, symbols of the terrible ways of war, two that had originally defended Fort Sumter, the federal citadel that fell to Confederate guns in 1861 at the start of the Civil War, and two that had an opposite outcome as instruments of Union maritime victories in New Orleans and Mobile Bay on Admiral David Farragut’s flagship, USS Hartford.

Replica cannon produced by Bay Cast, Inc., that now defend the park as in days of yore, are symbolic of the industry and technology inherent in Bay City. The cannons stand guard over the park now, much as those actual cannons of the Civil War stood when the magnificent enterprises that served the lumber industry thrived here.

Soon the jet black replica cannons will be supplemented by piles of 50-pound cannon balls also crafted by Bay Cast, Inc., headed by Max and Scott Holman. The Holmans also are donating a stack of cannon balls to Pine Ridge Cemetery to arm the 1863 siege gun that guards the 150 graves of Civil War veterans in Soldier’s Rest where a Grand Army of the Republic spire of the 1880s towers over the headstones.

This time, the honored visitor was Col. Roger Donlon, 82, first Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War and honorary chairman of the Bay Veterans Foundation which had overseen the park restoration under the leadership of retired hospital foundation director Keith Markstrom, himself a Vietnam veteran.

Col. Donlon recalled the service that bloody day of 5 July 1964 at Nam Dong when he and a dozen American army advisors, 311 South Vietnamese soldiers and 40 ethnic Chinese Nung fought off about 900 Viet Cong in a five-hour battle that began in the early morning hours.

“We faced a superior force but we overcame those odds because what was in our hearts was the spirit of being a proud American fighting man. That spirit came from the hometowns of every man on the team, small towns and big cities across America, that spirit rejuvenated and re-energized by such gatherings in their hometowns.”

Although wounded four times, Donlon continued to lead his small team and their allies to victory. Ultimately they were lifted from the combat hellhole by helicopter. He soon ended up at the White House where President Lyndon Johnson draped the laurels of the coveted Medal of Honor, America’s highest military honor, around his neck.

Now he was paying his second visit to Bay City and the area in as many years to personally help local teachers learn to use the Medal of Honor Character Development curriculum promoted by the National Medal of Honor Foundation. Donlon has dedicated his life to the project and travels continually in its interest to address what he calls “the dire straits America now is in.”

Col. Donlon in measured tones drew comparisons between the patriotic spirit of Bay City with his hometown of Saugerties, New York, on the Hudson River, dating to Revolutionary War days. He noted the symbolism and significance of the young Bay City boys and girls who had planted flags around the garden area gracing the park, “this fertile ground you know as home.”

“Now it’s our charge and our responsibility to keep that spirit alive so that when they become proud and productive citizens as you are, sitting in those same chairs in this same park, they will be respected and honored in a way that you are today.”

“For me — a visitor — this is a very special moment for me and I’m very grateful to share this day with you,” Col. Donlon said.

Trumpeters Freiwald, John Rickert, David Selley and Joel Wiseman, who also played the National Anthem, delivered the undying military anthems “Semper Paratus,” “the Caisson Song,” “Anchors Aweigh,” “Wild Blue Yonder” and the “Halls of Montezuma.”

Douglas Szczepanski, who had delivered the invocation, also provided the benediction; the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War fired a rifle volley, the trumpet quartet played the haunting “Taps,” and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War retired the colors.


The event wound down with the trumpet quartet playing “The Washington Post March,” “Bugler’s Holiday,” and “My Country Tis of Thee,” their dulcet tones drifting across the library lawn — a perfect conclusion to a memorable day in Bay City’s storied history.





News Release, MyBay June 13, 2016


Taken from NEWS RELEASE FROM KEITH MARKSTROM, PRESIDENT, BAY VETERANS FOUNDATION Don Carlyon, chairman of the Battery Park Project and former president of Delta College, stated the property was deeded to Bay City in 1849 by the Saginaw Bay Company for “public use for all time”. It once served as recruitment and parade grounds for Civil War and WWI soldiers. Bisected by Center Avenue from Madison to Adams Streets on Bay City’s East side the Park was used as the original town square due to its location near the current and former Bay County government buildings. Serving as a well manicured green space it was framed by former architectural structures such as the Bay City Club, the Bay County Jail, and numerous local businesses. Signature items that added to the Park’s uniqueness were two fountains and four Civil War cannon. A small hexagon shaped building served as a traffic control shack for trains that ran on tracks from the Pete Marquette Depot down Jefferson Avenue south to Saginaw. “These historic items were lost to time”, said Carlyon, “but a partnership between the City of Bay City, the County of Bay, the Bay County Library System, and the Bay Veterans Foundation is rejuvenating this area to some of its former glory”. The most prominent and historically significant elements that quietly stood guard for 40 years were the Civil War cannon. Two were 13-inch seacoast mortar cannon that belonged to the Confederacy at Fort Sumter where the Civil War started. The other two were 9-inch Dahlgren cannon that were from the USS Hartford, the flagship of Rear Admiral David G. Farragut. The Dahlgren cannon were part of the ship’s arsenal deployed to capture New Orleans in 1862 permitting Union Forces to control the Mississippi River. These weapons were used again in August 1864 during the Battle of Mobile Bay. Historians mark this as the last major naval battle of the War and speculate it might have shortened the nation’s conflict by two years. It was also credited for the phrase allegedly uttered by Farragut, “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead”. These four cannon were given to the Bay County War Production Board in 1942 to be melted down to aid the United States effort in WWII. Part of the Battery Park redo is the manufacture of a replica Dahlgren and mortar cannon by Bay Cast Foundry. Each was cast from original specifications as drawn and engineered in the 1850’s. Old photos of the traffic control shack were used by architectural design specialist, Tom Freiwald, to develop plans to create an informational kiosk to be located in front of the Wirt Library. Construction and Building Trades students at Delta College under the tutorship of instructor Dave Bledsoe have built the structure that will be used by Wirt Library staff and the Bay County Historical Society and Museum for educational programs.


Bay Veterans Foundation Answering the call…

As a Veteran myself (U.S. Army Infantry) I’m proud of all the accomplishments of the Bay Veterans Foundation and thankful for their support of the Veterans we proudly serve at the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center.

A prominent example of their support occurred approximately two years ago. The Recreational Therapy Bingo machine broke and parts were no longer available. I contacted Mr. Markstrom and within 48 hours Recreational Therapy had a new digital bingo machine. We didn’t miss a beat with our bingo schedule.

Just this past week the Bay Veterans Foundation again answered the call providing numerous winter coats and sweats for Veterans seeking to stay warm in the upcoming winter months.

The Aleda E. Lutz VA Voluntary Service is proud to partner with the Bay Veterans Foundation and sincerely thank you for your continued support.

Jason Christianson, BBA, MSA

U.S. Army Infantry Veteran

Chief, Voluntary Service