It’s been 19 year since the dream of an Orion Veterans Memorial became reality. The man who had that dream, Lake Orion dentist and veteran Joe Mastromatteo, says he can finally look on it as finished, now that the central sculpture has been installed.
The bronze statue, titled Tears of Sadness and Joy, was dedicated this year on Memorial Day. It was designed and sculpted by Frank Varga and fabricated by the Steve Leach family.
“We completed our 19-year dream,” Mastromatteo said. “It was a bunch of wonderfully patriotic volunteers that have chipped in over the years. … One person inspired another person and it kept going. We’ve added more monuments than the architect had planned.”
The third and final wall of the memorial was dedicated last summer. On Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m., the community can see it all at the annual Veterans Day observance.
Formerly known as Armistice Day, Veterans Day commemorates the armistice that ended World War I, signed in 1918 at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first Armistice Day the following year, calling for solemnity and gratitude. The name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.
For the last decade, Veterans Day has been observed in Lake Orion at the memorial, where it is presented in alternating years by VFW Post 334 and American Legion Post 233. This year’s ceremony will include a gun salute and Taps by the Michigan Minuteman Platoon.
“They are a wonderfully synchronized rifle team,” Mastromatteo said. Musical presentations will include Lake Orion teacher Kathy McMinn and the Paint Creek Boys. Speakers will include Robert Boegner of Vietnam Veterans of America and Orion Township Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel. The names of local veterans who died in the past year will be read, and a wreath will be placed at the memorial’s Branches of Service wall. Coffee will be provided by Starbucks.
“It’s a wonderful, wonderful afternoon,” Mastromatteo said. Afterwards, memorabilia will be sold that supports the maintenance of the memorial site.
Engraved bricks are another way the memorial raises funds, and in that regard it is incomplete, Mastromatteo said.
“We still have hundreds of unengraved bricks,” he said. “It is a living memorial; it’s not static. It is designed so we can accommodate the future. We hope we don’t have any more wars, but it doesn’t look like it’s going that way.”
The memorial is located at 312 South Broadway (M-24) at the corner of Odanah.