TRAVERSE CITY — The National Cherry Festival saluted heroes of today and yesterday by honoring festival-goers who serve in all armed forces branches, as well as public safety and Homeland Security personnel.
Anthems were sung and patriotic speeches and pledges recited at the Festival Open Space on Monday in a ceremony to salute the men and women who serve. Medallions were presented to veterans and those in active duty, as well as first responders.
After a presentation of twirling rifles by the U.S. Air Force Drill Team, Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley reminded the crowd of the hard work of local police and firemen who work to keep the Cherry Festival a safe place to have fun.
“When you see them in uniform, working hard, give them thanks,” he said.
Col. Erich Randall was recognized for his service as the Garrison Commander at Camp Grayling. He was honored for devoting his life to the military, which included working as Strategic Planning Officer in the Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Pentagon.
“I am a soldier, always,” he said to the crowd when he took the stage. He recently retired from the military, but planned on staying in the area.
“This is the most beautiful place in the world,” he said. “Nothing tops it. We feel at home here.”
He said it would take nearly a year before he could fully transition out of this military position to enjoy his retirement in Traverse City.
Festival volunteers handed out medallions to any man or woman who presented themselves as military or first responders.
“This is a time to appreciate America and its defenders,” retired Staff Sergeant Ronald Bentley said.
Bentley served in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953. He traveled from Macomb to see the U.S Navy Blue Angels perform over the holiday weekend and know about the Heroes Day when he came to the festival in the morning. He wore a medallion with honor as the ceremony ended with Taps being played on the trumpet by Rick Stewart.