'True American Hero': Ferndale Vet to Get Purple Heart After 41 Years
SPC Tom Ducharme, a Vietnam veteran and lifelong Ferndale resident, is receiving his Purple Heart on Friday at a public ceremony on Vester.
A lifelong Ferndale resident will finally receive his Purple Heart after 41 years on Friday.
SPC Tom Ducharme, a Vietnam veteran with the US Army, served from 1969-1971. Senator Carl Levin will present him with his Purple Heart at a public ceremony in Ferndale at 3 p.m. Friday.
The ceremony will be held on Vester outside of the Ferndale Elks Lodge. The event - organized by local nonprofit "Hangin' With the Heroes" - is open and free to the public, with children encouraged to attend.
"Hangin' With the Heroes" was founded in February 2009 "as a way for our community to honor the brave men and women that serve our country," said founder Ron Gilmour.
Friday's ceremony for Ducharme is a "true rarity," Gilmour said.
It came about after a secretary at the Elks who grew up with Ducharme learned that he had not yet received his Purple Heart. "We need to make this happen," Gilmour said when he found out.
He hopes many children in the community will attend the ceremony.
"We all hear the word hero used with reference to athletes, actors, musicians and that is not what a hero is. Each and every Hangin' with the Heroes event, I read from the dictionary the definition of the word hero ... We want to teach [kids] what a true hero is," Gilmour said. "This is an opportunity for them to see them in person. Walk up, shake their hand, introduce themselves. Talk to a true American hero."
Vester will be closed for the ceremony and bleachers will be set up for attendees. Officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will be in attendance, Gilmour said - "veterans of virtually every war since World War II to pay homage to Tom."
Following the ceremony, everyone is invited in to the Elks Lodge for food and beverages. Food has been donated by many local restaurants and families (free of charge). Adult beverages may be purchased at membership rates.
"Hangin' With the Heroes" is supported through private, tax deductible donations that can be made through Ferndale Elks Lodge #1588 (include "Hangin' With the Heroes" on the donation).