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Drive-by salute: First responders show support for isolated GR veterans

About three dozen emergency vehicles circled the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans on Wednesday to show solidarity with isolated residents amid the pandemic.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dozens of first responders participated in a drive-by tribute at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans on Wednesday to let isolated residents know that they are not forgotten.

 “We decided to come down and let them be reminded about how much we honor them and respect them,’’ said event organizer Tom Antor.

About three dozen vehicles participated in the Wednesday morning drive-by, including police cars from throughout Kent and neighboring counties, several fire trucks and other emergency rigs.

Vehicles staged at 9 a.m. at the American Legion Boat and Canoe Club before heading south in a line to the veterans facility at 3000 Monroe Avenue NE.

Vehicles turned into the drive and headed to the back of the facility. Once stopped, participants got out of their vehicles and saluted veterans watching from the windows.

“Honestly, it brought tears to my eyes. It choked me up more than I expected,’’ said Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young.

The outpouring of support for military veterans was heartening, she said.

“It makes me proud to know they know their law enforcement brothers and sisters are here for them,’’ LaJoye-Young said. 

Antor, a Kent County commissioner, started working on the veterans home tribute earlier this month. Support, he said, was immediate.

“Community support has been outstanding,’’ Antor said. “You get within this community of fire, police and first responders – they get it.’’

Restrictions on visitors and being isolated from others is difficult for veterans living at the facility, he said.

Credit: 13 ON YOUR SIDE

“They’re up there in their fox holes and they’ve been there for weeks,’’ Antor said. “Their family members can’t see them. This can’t be easy for them.’’

About 200 veterans are living at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. None of the residents have tested positive for the coronavirus, although one staff member tested positive, said Tiffany Carr, director of member and community relations.

The event on Wednesday, she said, was much appreciated.

"Our veterans and staff truly appreciated the gift of honor and respect for everything we are doing to care for and protect our heroes,'' she said.

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