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Bay Veterans Foundation President Keith Markstrom, left, and John Morse of the Bay County Department of Buildings and Grounds, inspect a recently installed crosswalk in Battery Park.

PARK RE-DEDICATION: Vets Slate Battery Park Event Tuesday, June 21

June 3, 2016       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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One of America's greatest heroes of the Vietnam War, Col. Roger Donlon, will speak here this month as local veterans crown cooperative efforts of the city, county, library system and private donors who participated in a revival of Battery Park in downtown Bay City.

Col. Donlon's remarks will come as Bay City's historical landmarks, Battery Park, springs back into prominence on Tuesday, June 21 when it is re-dedicated by the Bay Veterans Foundation.

Col. Donlon is honorary chairman of the Bay Veterans Foundation, headed by Keith Markstrom, a Vietnam veteran.

Originally called Park Place, Battery Park consists of four 100 foot square plazas. It was set aside as the town square in the original map of Bay City drawn in 1849 by pioneer James G. Birney.

The park, which virtually disappeared when the Wirt Library was built in 2004, has been redefined by landscaping, angled crosswalks and pending installation of a six-sided replica guard kiosk and two replica cannons.

The park thus will return to its pre-World War II glory when it provided a garden-like front for the grounds of the Bay City Club, the old Bay County Building and the iconic old county jail at Center Avenue and Jefferson Street.

The $100,000 park restoration recalls Bay City's early days when former Congressman Col George A. Loud of Oscoda obtained Civil War cannon that had armed Ft. Sumter, a federal installation just off Charleston, South Carolina, taken by a Confederate bombardment that signaled the start of the epic Civil War.

Col. Loud had a colleague from South Carolina, Rep. George Legare, who made it possible for the historic cannon to be moved here. Besides a huge siege cannon, an eight-inch Columbiad, the armaments acquired included two Dahlgren cannons that had served Adm. David Farragut aboard his flagship from which he directed the capture of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. This community had only to pay the cost of drayage for the cannons from South Carolina.

In 1942 as World War II raged, Bay City donated the cannons from Battery Park and two more Dahlgrens that had been displayed on the front lawn of City Hall to the War Department as part of the civilian war effort.

The replica cannons, one Dahlgren, and a siege gun, to be installed in the park soon, were cast by Bay Cast, Inc., under direction of Max Holman, president of the firm.

The park was the focal point of community-wide celebrations for returning service members from World War I in 1919.

Celebrations honored the recently returned veterans of the Great War (World War I) and also included members of the Grand Army of the Republic (veterans of the Civil War), veterans of the border action against Pancho Villa in 1916 and the Spanish-American War of 1898.

In Bay City perhaps the greatest celebration in the city's history took place 10 June 1919 with Lt. Col. Augustus Gansser as marshal. The day began with a salute at sunrise by the Michigan State troops in Wenonah Park. For the 10 a.m. parade, the fire department, G.A.R., the Michigan State troops, officers of the Army and Navy and the 33rd Regiment Band formed at Battery Park, Center and Jefferson avenues.

The German-born Gansser, active in the local Peninsulars military group, had been a captain in the Spanish-American War and was a correspondent for several Michigan newspapers, becoming well known by virtue of that duty. He served heroically in Cuba and was among the 21 survivors of 86 members of Company D, 34th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, and came back emaciated.

Dr. Tim Eckstein, retired Navy captain, chairman of the re-dedication committee, will open the ceremonies at 5:30 p.m. The Tom Friewald Band will play the National Anthem and later will present a unique horn concert. Friewald was the designer of the kiosk, built by Delta College Construction Trades students under direction of Dave Bledsoe, department chairman.

Participants will include the Bay Veterans Council Honor Guard; the Rev. Charles Campbell, chaplain of American Legion Post 18; recognition of major sponsors by Dr. Eckstein; Donald Carlyon, Bay County Library System trustee; Keith Markstrom, president of the Bay Veterans Foundation; Rick Finn, city manager of Bay City; County Executive Tom Hickner; and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War headed by Paul Davis.

Col. Donlon was the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in Vietnam and the first Green Beret to be so honored. As a Special Forces captain advising 311 South Vietnamese soldiers at Camp Nam Dong in 1964, Donlon lead the fight against 900 Viet Cong who attacked the camp. He was wounded four times but continued to lead a spirited and tenacious defense, defeating the enemy assault.

A native of Iowa, Col. Donlon is also coming here to introduce a workshop in Saginaw for teachers regarding the Medal of Honor Character Development Curriculum promoted by the Medal of Honor Foundation. ###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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