Coast Guard honored at Veterans Day Dinner

CALUMET – The U.S. Coast Guard is “the most forgotten armed service,” Casey McDonald, executive petty officer at Coast Guard Station Portage, said Sunday night.

One small step towards rectifying that was Sunday’s Veterans Day dinner at the National Guard Readiness Center in Calumet.

McDonald and Edward Iversen, officer in charge at the station, gave a presentation on the Coast Guard’s history and the station’s capabilities at Sunday’s banquet.

The Coast Guard dates back to 1790, when President George Washington authorized building 10 boats for the service then known as the Revenue Marine. In the time since, the Coast Guard has taken part in all of America’s wars and military conflicts.

“They’re always ready to defend our homeland and serve as one of the armed services,” he said.

Coast Guard Station Portage is one of the few Station/Aids to Navigation Teams in the Coast Guard. The Aids to Navigation boats are designed for use on inland waters. Twenty-six people are stationed at Portage, which primarily handles search and rescue, law enforcement and maintaining local aids to navigation.

State Rep. Scott Dianda also addressed the crowd. He thanked veterans for their service and said he is working to make sure the state is adequately funding veterans facilities such as the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette and the Grand Rapids Veteran Center.

“I wanted to have the vets here understand that that’s something so very dear to the state of Michigan, and that towards the end of their life they have the most wonderful place to be, and the best care they could have,” he said.

Students from the Calumet Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps performed several duties during the night, including a ceremony to honor prisoners of war, who were marked by an empty seat.

“To me, it’s not just a solemn day of remembrance and thanks, but it is also a celebratory day of reminding ourselves just what it is our veterans fought for,” Lt. Col. Dana Spelich said in a speech.

Veterans were presented with a slice of cake. First to be served were the two World War II veterans in attendance. Al Tikkanen served in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the Air Force. Rudy Bianchi served in the 86th Blackhawk Infantry – “Patton’s Army,” he said.

The themes are rotated annually; next year’s will honor the women of the Armed Forces. After that the rotation will start again with the U.S. Army.