Steve Bieda Sponsors Bill Honoring Veterans with World War II Memorial

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C&G Newspapers, "Bills aim to support memorial for state’s World War II vets," 2/23/18

WARREN — More than 600,000 Michiganders served at home or abroad in the armed forces during World War II. Most returned to raise families and help build their communities. We’ll never know how the stories could have ended for the thousands who never made it back.

Supporters of the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial in Royal Oak hope a pair of bills set for committee hearings in the Michigan Senate this month will inject new energy into an ongoing effort to construct a permanent tribute to those who served abroad and on the homefront during the Second World War.

Companion legislation, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Steve Bieda, of Warren, and Republican state Sen. Marty Knollenberg, of Troy, would establish a Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial Fund in the Michigan Treasury and would let state tax filers make a voluntary charitable contribution to the cause when they file a return.

Passage of Bieda’s bill, Senate Bill 817, is required before the Michigan Treasury could collect and distribute the donated funds, while Knollenberg’s legislation, SB 816, would amend the state’s Income Tax Act to add the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial to a list of existing state-approved charitable organizations. This list currently has 10 charities, including the American Red Cross Michigan Fund, the Animal Welfare Fund, the Military Family Relief Fund and the United Way Fund.

“I’m excited to be part of this. We have so many veterans who are dying every day,” Bieda said. “It’s a well-publicized project, one that has a great deal of significance for the veterans and their families, and for those of us who weren’t around during this time period but have a great degree of respect for the men and women of this country who fought and died during the war.”

Bieda said the bills were set for a committee hearing in Lansing the week of Feb. 26 and that he’d ideally like to see them signed by the governor by Memorial Day this year.

“I think it’s important that we try to recognize that generation, the men and women who not only served, but the families of those who served as well,” Knollenberg added. “We want to continue this legacy so people don’t forget those folks that served for us.”

Plans for the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial call for its construction on the northeast corner of Woodward Avenue and 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak. Originally conceived in 2011 by volunteers with Honor Flight Michigan, the proposed $3 million memorial will include statues dedicated to telling Michigan’s WW II story and pillars signifying the state’s support at home for the war effort. There will also be a “Walk of Honor” paved with bricks honoring those who served, an event amphitheater, and online companion materials to supplement field trips, family outings and individual visits to the memorial.

“When we finally complete this memorial, to be able to look at it and say this memorial is complete, what that would mean to me is that this generation of men and women who’ve literally saved the world will not be forgotten here in Michigan,” said Debi Hollis, president of the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial’s board of directors. “This is their story. It’s Michigan’s story. It’s our contribution to the war effort, and if we, in some small way by this memorial, can honor that generation and teach future generations, then our job is done.”   

The Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial is a registered nonprofit organization seeking support from private donors, corporations and foundations. No public tax dollars are being used to pay for the memorial. Fundraising remains ongoing, and donations can be made in a variety of ways.

Throughout March, the Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial will benefit from the purchase of featured items at Royal Oak’s Roak Brewing Co., on Lincoln Avenue, east of Main Street. Volunteers from the group will share information about the memorial at the brewery on Tuesdays in March.

For information about bricks along the “Walk of Honor” and other ways to contribute, call (888) 229-6126 or visit www.michiganww2memorial.org.

Find the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheMichiganWWIILegacyMemorial.

Steve Bieda