August 28

Inside the life of Michigan’s most decorated WWII veteran

first_imgAddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterShare to MoreAddThisALPENA, Mich. – Some 18.2 million living veterans were honored in our nation this week, and let’s not forget the thousands who have died protecting our land and our freedoms.Clemet Van Wagoner was a national guardsman, a World War II veteran, but above all an inspiration to the community and his family.Van Wagoner’s only son, Clayton, walked to his father’s grave site at Evergreen Cemetery. “This is where my father and mother are,” he said.It was a rainy day. Clay crouched down and brushed the wet leaves covering a plaque deposited in the ground. He read, “Clemet C. Van Wagoner, lieutenant colonel, United States Army….[born] March 4, 1914….Silver Star, three Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star medal, Purple Heart and two Oak Leaf Clusters.” He added, “Michigan’s most decorated soldier.”Clemet Van Wagoner is one of the most decorated soldiers of WWII. Van Wagoner served 600 days of combat and returned to battle after being wounded five separate times, according to Congress. He fought in the largest seaborne invasion on D–Day, making him one of only 32 survivors of the 1,800 soldiers who landed with the 1st infantry division at Omaha Beach.Shortly after Van Wagoner’s death in 2007, the community renamed the Veterans Affairs Clinic of Alpena to Lieutenant Colonel Clemet C. Van Wagoner Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic.The hallway is dawned with memories of Clay’s father. “I’m very grateful they put this on display and named the clinic in my dad’s memory. He was a humble man. He didn’t really want to be recognized for anything. He just did his duty.”Clay walked down the hall and stopped in front of a timeline. The timeline displayed some of the more important events in Clemet’s life, including photos of family, distinctive honors and fellow military comrades. Clay said, “that’s my dad; and my son, Connor; and my daughter, Courtney; and my daughter, Danielle.”Connor Van Wagoner was about 8 or 9 when his grandfather passed away. “He knew him,” said Clay, “as his grandpa….[Connor would] sit on his lap, and grandpa would entertain him and tell him stories. So he knew his grandpa.” There’s a photo on the timeline of Connor sitting on his grandfather’s lap.Clay lives a quiet life with his wife and two dogs in Alpena. His wife makes him a cup of coffee as he reminisces on his father’s legacy at the kitchen table.“You know, I remember lots of stories,” said Clay. “My dad told me a lot of things about his experience. I guess when I was a young child he would primarily just tell me about his friends — people he knew.”Clay served in the Army Reserve. He didn’t inherit his father’s resume, but Clay and his son live to carry on the Van Wagoner name.“I did not serve in the capacity that my dad did,” said Clay. “I never was in a combat zone. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not a hero of even the closest, but I did have the pleasure of serving, and I did get to serve with several heroes — great men of this nation. But it was my pleasure to serve in the military.”Clay said his father didn’t look for accolades, “he was a humble man with a heart to serve his country.”Clay gets up from the kitchen table and walks over to the counter. He points to all the medals and honors his father left behind. There’s about 21 medals neatly cased.“That’s the Silver Star. That’s the third highest award you can receive for combat.” Clay added, “that’s the Bronze Star. He received that award three times…This is a Soldier’s Medal. This is the Purple Heart.” Clemet suffered wounds while serving and received the Purple Heart three times. “Out of all of these, probably the one that he most likely to be identified with was this award right here.”Michigan’s most decorated WWII hero wore only one bar of ribbons. If he wore them all, he would have a lot of them. Clemet always pinned on his CIB — Combat Infantry Badge — his favorite.Clay points to a separate case of medals. “These are the medals my dad actually received,” said Clay. “Those were pinned on his shirt when he received the award.”When asked of his favorite award, Clay said, “my favorite one is that he survived and came home.”There’s something to be said about great American war heroes. Perhaps it’s their bravery, or strength, or their will to lay down their life for millions of families back home. The stars and stripes on the flag waving on Clay’s porch represents freedom. Between every stitch is pride.Death can’t bury a strong legacy nor would anyone forget Clemet Van Wagoner, Michigan’s most decorated veteran of WWII.“He was a great man,” said Clay. “He was a war hero, and he’s been gone for a little over 10 years. But he was a great guy, a father, and I loved him dearly. His memory lives on.”AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterShare to MoreAddThisContinue ReadingPrevious Veteran receives monetary boost thanks to local bandNext Wind turbines causing controversy in Presque Isle Countylast_img read more

January 14

‘We’ll Scatter Ebola Bones on the Highway’

first_imgWorkers at the government-run Ebola crematorium once operated by the Indian Community have threatened to cause a disruption by scattering the remains of Ebola victims on to the Robertsfield Highway if Government fails to pay their salaries.Speaking to the Daily Observer at the start of a six-month psychosocial counseling program, recently, one of the aggrieved crematorium workers, Robert Beer, noted that since government announced that there would be no more cremation of Ebola victims, crematorium workers were reportedly told to hold on until their benefits are determined.  But since then, there has been no commitment from the government, said Beer.Since government stopped the burning of Ebola dead late December 2014 and regular burial practices were resumed, the men who carried out the cremation said they have not been paid a dime and government had allegedly owed them for two weeks.According to Beer, during the heat of the Ebola crisis, government pleaded with them to assist with the cremation of Ebola victims in order to stop the further spread of the disease.“It was because of sympathy and patriotism that we decided to join government in rendering our services. Unfortunately, since the virus is now becoming history the very people who were begging us have now abandoned us since November,” he charged.Beer said they were being paid US$200 weekly and used to cremate about 150 to 200 bodies a day. He stated that it was a risky job especially as it was done during the Rainy Season. He disclosed that most of them have been neglected by their families and are being stigmatized by some in the community. He added: “Then the government, too, which should provide us reintegration packages as well as counseling, chose to also neglect us.”Speaking during the opening of the counseling workshop, the chairman of Sengbe Psychotherapeutic Group, Inc, Dr. Kpangbala Sengbe, said after a crisis like that of the Ebola outbreak the psychosocial needs of the people affected should not be overlooked.Sengbe urged government and partners to provide adequate psychosocial counseling for affected communities, including the people of Boys Town.“The same way when people were sick they were taken to the ETUs and provided medical support is the same way communities affected by the Ebola and primitive cremation should be provided psychosocial services,” Sengbe stated.The counseling workshop was conducted by Sengbe Group, Inc. and Renewed Energy Serving Humanity (RESH).Also speaking, the general coordinator of RESH, Ernest G. Smith, said if the psychosocial and physical needs of the men, who took part in the cremating of the bodies are not met, there would be an emergence of mentally-disabled, criminal-minded people and violence in that community as a result of the trauma created by the burning of fellow human beings and the amount of money those men got used to which they are now demanding that they be paid.He applauded the Boys Town community dwellers for their resilience, further stressing that it is not an easy thing for one to lose their identity and be identified or labeled negatively“One reality that is outstanding is that this community deserves help and I am so proud of you that you guys did not sit and wait for the requisite help you deserve, rather you went out and scouted for the help you need,” he noted.The six-month psychosocial counseling is an initiative of Mr. Tibelrosa Summoh Tarponweh, lead Advocate and community advisor of the Boys Town Communities.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

December 22

Brave couple begin ‘walk of death’ to finish Wild Atlantic Relay in Donegal

first_imgAn inspirational couple are at the final stages of a 1,000km Wild Atlantic Relay from Mizen to Malin Head.Paul and Karen McGovern are leading the walk to raise funds and awareness of Multiple Sclerosis in Ireland. Paul, aged 37, has secondary progressive MS, which makes this all the more challenging.Paul and his wife Karen today began their so-called “walk of death” in Donegal as they take on 28 mile stretches before they reach their end goal at Malin Head next week. Paul and Karen’s first route planPaul is from Dunleer County Louth and was diagnosed with an aggressive form of MS eight years ago. He and Karen walked from Ireland west to east coast in 10 days two years ago, but as Paul’s condition progresses they say that this will be their last big adventure. They set off from Mizen Head on June 4th with a huge goal of covering an average of 20 miles a day to make up 990km (615 miles).Paul and Karen’s walk is being supported by Centra and they have been making pit stops at Centra stores all along the Wild Atlantic Way. They have been warmly welcomed by communities across the west coast who have been hosting fundraising days for MS Ireland.Centra BallyshannonPaul and Karen crossed into Donegal on July 10th to arrive in Ballyshannon. On Tuesday 11th July they walked from Ballyshannon to Donegal Town for a rest day and a coffee day at Centra. On Thursday Paul and Karen trekked from Donegal to Killybegs, where they were greeted by the triumphant Killybegs Marching Band at Hegartys Centra. This morning they embarked on their first gruelling 28 mile walk, which is expected to take them 12 hours to get to Dungloe.Hegarty’s Centra KillybegsCentra KillybegsThis is the start of 4 days for the couple in which they have to 120 miles to cover to get to Ireland’s most northerly point.“If you see Paul hitching on the road today, please just pass by, don’t pick him up,” Karen warned supporters in a video update this morning.“No, give me a lift!,” said Paul.“It’s going to be brutally tough, but that’s the plan that was put together and that’s the plan we have to do,” Paul said.The couple are welcoming everyone to join them for a mile or two and show their support by donating to them along the route. On Sunday they will walk to Letterkenny, then on to Buncrana and finally Malin Head, with rest days in between.Donations can be left into local participating Centra shops and donations can also be made on-line here: couple begin ‘walk of death’ to finish Wild Atlantic Relay in Donegal was last modified: July 15th, 2017 by Rachel McLaughlinShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more