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A special tribute to local men who died in Vietnam

May 24, 2013
Betsy Lehndorff - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - Northeast Michigan war veterans have planned numerous events during the Memorial Day weekend, including parades, speakers and visits to cemeteries in area cities and townships. But none will be perhaps as tear-stained as the dedication of a Vietnam veteran's memorial on a tiny triangle of land at Washington and Second avenues in Alpena.

At 1 p.m. Monday, a crowd will gather to honor 15 Alpena area men, who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam Conflict, organizer Larry Marchlewski Sr. said. The men's names are cast in a bronze plate that Crow Memorials owner Marty Rifenbark set into a carved granite stone.

"There are overtones with the Vietnam veterans," said Rifenbark, who donated everything. "We see it all the time. There was a lot of controversy about the war and they didn't receive the welcome back."

Rifenbark carved the speckled gray and white Barre granite himself, cutting stars into the decorative border, before setting the metal plate in place.

The plaque has a complicated history, several veterans and residents said. In1995, it was donated and displayed at the Besser Museum as part of a traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall replica. A local businessman, who organized the event, but never served in the war, put his name at the top of the plaque. Below in smaller type were the names of the soldiers.

"Some people liked it. Some people didn't like it," said Wayne Trapp, another former Marine who was in Vietnam earlier in the conflict. The 72-year-old tends the tiny plot, mowing the grass, replacing small flags and trimming the shrubbery.

Fact Box


* 9 a.m. Saturday- Flags will be placed on the graves of veterans at Evergreen Cemetery. Meet at the maintenance building. The public is invited to help and should bring gloves, pliers, a screwdriver and a 5-gallon bucket. Dress according to the weather. The work will be done rain or shine.

* 10:30 a.m. Sunday Memorial service at First United Methodist Church, 167 S. Ripley Blvd. All denominations and faiths are welcome.

* 9 a.m. Monday - Memorial presentation at the County Courthouse, 720 W. Chisholm St. Guest speaker is Lt. Col. Susan Cloft of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.

* 9:45 a.m. Monday After the service, the parade starts at Eighth Street, and heads to Chisholm Street, then to Ninth Street, right on Washington Avenue and onto Veterans Memorial Highway (M-32). The parade will stop at the river at City Park for a memorial for U.S. Naval Forces. From there to Little Flanders Field at the cemetery, where a service will start at 11 a.m. U.S. Army Major David Cloft will be the guest speaker. Anyone who wants to join the parade should call Tom Keen at 354-7144.

* 1 p.m. Monday The Alpena County Veterans Council and Crow Memorials will dedicate the downtown Vietnam veterans memorial at the corner of Washington and Second avenues, honoring 12 dead and three pilots missing in action.


Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #6466 of Harrisville will conduct military services to honor the dead at the following locations:

* 9 a.m. Monday at Mount Joy Cemetery

* 9:45 a.m. Springport Cemetery

* 10:15 a.m. St. Anne Cemetery

* 10:45 a.m. Westlawn Cemetery

* 11:15 a.m. Harrisville Harbor

* 12 p.m. at the Alcona County Courthouse memorial stone

Veterans of Foreign Wars Wm. F. Moore Post #6754 of Spruce will conduct military services to honor deceased veterans:

* 10:15 a.m. Monday William O'Dell, Hope Cemetery, Ossineke

* 11 a.m. Monday Gerald Ludwiczak, Calvary Cemetery, Black River

Mikado American Legion Post #254 has planned these events:

* 8 a.m. Monday Coffee and donuts at 2205 Alger St., Mikado

* 9:45 a.m. Mikado Civic Center on Highway F-41

* 11:15 a.m. service at the Mikado post

* 2 p.m. Ceremony at the Village of Lincoln fire hall


* 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday - Westminster Church, Roger's City. Servicemen's Club and VFW Post #607 color guard will host a parade and services at the courthouse and cemetery.

* 11 a.m. Monday services at Riverside Cemetery, Millersburg

* 11 a.m. Monday service at the Onaway Courthouse war memorial

The plaque eventually dropped out of sight for 17 years. When it resurfaced in June 2012, it was handed over to the Alpena County Veterans Affairs Office. Then Marchlewski and Rifenbark got together and in November 2012, Rifenbark offered to donate his services so that the memorial could be displayed.

Marchlewski was asked to be at the park when the stone was installed, and will return Monday to be a part of the dedication.

"I'm just happy to do it," he said. "All they wanted for me to do was be there to show them were to put it."

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.



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