Memorial Day celebration in Copper Harbor

COPPER HARBOR – As onlookers sat on the steps of a 19th-century Army barracks, veterans, schoolchildren and others paid tribute to America’s military during a Memorial Day celebration Monday at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park in Copper Harbor.

A crowd of about 200 was on hand for the program, which featured a keynote speech by retired U.S. Marine Col. James Huovinen.

There are 1.4 million Americans on active duty, and another 1.3 million in the National Guard and Reserves, Huovinen said. Of those, 14 percent are women. Together, they make up less than 1 percent of the country’s population.

“Each generation of Americans receives the duty and responsibility of protecting past generations,” he said.

Huovinen saw the latest of those as a new generation of lieutenants from Michigan Technological University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps received their commissions.

Many of this week’s high school graduates will soon join the Armed Forces.

“Anyone who has served in the military knows that the young sergeants and petty officers are the backbone of the military,” Huovinen said. “They will go and deploy, be in harm’s way, defending our country and our national interests.”

The Calumet High School class of 1964 will celebrate its 50th class reunion from July 11-14. To honor classmates killed in Vietnam, they will hold memorial services at the Legion Field in Calumet, which will incorporate a replica of the Vietnam Wall. The public will be able to visit the monument.

“The Vietnam Wall is a stark reminder of the price of freedom,” said Huovinen, who first saw it in 1983 with his family.

The day also included a performance by students from the Copper Harbor School, remarks from park supervisor Robert Strittmatter, a color presentation and taps from the Marine Corps League Keweenaw Detachment No. 1016, and an invocation and benediction from Bonnie Harrer.

The Copper Harbor students read poems and sang songs such as “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land.” They also presented flowers to honor veterans of each U.S. military engagement.

The presentation was well-received by the audience, including Kristy Erickson of Hancock, who was camping at the park.

“It was pretty good,” she said. “I’m sure the veterans felt very honored by it.”

Cleo Williamson of Spearfish, South Dakota, had come to the event with friends.

“The children did beautifully, and the speaker was nice,” she said.