Lake Orion Memorial Day Honored Veteran

By Chief Jerry Narsh

Lake Orion Police Dept.

Special Contributor to The Review

Since 2006, the Lake Orion Police Department has partnered with the Lake Orion American Legion Post #233 to annually select and honor a local veteran for their service to their country on Memorial Day.

The Honored Veteran rides in the lead police vehicle at the head of the parade and their biography is read to the parade crowd at a brief ceremony during the parade. In addition, they are recognized throughout the day and throughout the year at the various community events.

Since that time, we have had the privilege of learning the amazing stories of military service during times of war and the bravery and courage in battle that so many everyday members of our community have endured for the cause of liberty.

What we have also learned is that these Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen are not every day Americans. They are Everyday Heroes. Simply said, theirs are the stories that, when patched together, re-create the battles and victories we often read about and celebrate. The Honored Veteran is an ambassador for all Orion area veterans for the year. As we recognize him or her at events, we pause to remember the willing sacrifice of all veterans to keep their heroism in our hearts and minds.

Theirs are the stories that need to be told. These men and women are the reason we pause and remember.

Please join me in recognizing one of these American Heroes, by highlighting his service, courage and sacrifice in advance of this year’s Memorial Day community events and parades.

The 2018 Lake Orion American Legion Post 233/LOPD – Honored Veteran – Mr. Kenneth Smith, Gunners Mate 3rd Class, United States Navy – Vietnam 1966 – 1970.

Kenneth Smith was born in Royal Oak, MI in 1946. He was drafted in 1966 at age 18 and chose the U.S. Navy to follow in his father’s footsteps. After completing basic training, Ken was assigned to the USS Hoel (DDG-13) Destroyer serving two tours of duty in Vietnam aboard the Hoel providing supportive fire to Marine units inland.

In September 1968, Ken was assigned to Swift Boat Training. From January 1969 to February 1970, Ken served as a Gunners Mate 3rd Class manning the Twin 50’s machine gun on the “PCF 27”, or Patrol Craft Fast known as a Swift Boat. The team consisted of five enlisted men and one officer patrolling the rivers, inlets and canals of the Mekong Delta in search of Viet Cong. Swift Boat duty was dangerous where firefights occurred daily as the small boats patrolled the narrow rivers checking every Sampan and vessel they encountered.

Ken knew Swift Boat duty was dangerous work but was proud to serve his country saying, “I live in this country and I want to help defend it. I considered myself lucky, so many lost limbs and lives.”

Ken added that his best memory was returning to San Diego and seeing his parents on shore – they surprised him on his return.

After the war Ken returned to his home town and after “five blind dates that failed” Ken met his future wife, Gloria Gifford, on a double blind date after Gloria saw a newspaper article about Ken’s return home and said to her girlfriend, “Why can’t I date an all-American guy like that?

Three weeks later they were engaged to be married and raised two children, Robin Cram and Brian Smith.

Ken worked for TRW Automotive for 38 years, retiring in 2006.

Kenneth Smith is a true American Hero, a patriot, a husband, father and a proud member of the Lake Orion community. The Lake Orion Police Department is honored to recognize him as the 2018 Lake Orion Honored Veteran.

Please attend the Lake Orion Memorial Day Parade, Ken will be our honored guest, riding in the 1941 Ford police car at the head of the Parade. This is our opportunity to wave back and thank him for his service!