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Veterans, city officials feud over relocation of memorial in Royal Oak

Posted at 10:30 PM, May 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-30 09:54:49-04

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — After filing a lawsuit against the city of Royal Oak over the relocation of a war memorial, leaders of a local veterans groups sent a letter to city officials saying they aren’t welcome at this year's Memorial Day parade.

The argument began over plans to construct the new Centennial Park in downtown Royal Oak, which started earlier this month. As part of the construction, the city moved its Veterans Memorial from its original spot to a new location 40 feet to the east.

“Keep in mind, we’re talking about 40 feet. That’s all," said Royal Oak Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Paruch.

But local veterans say it's more than just the distance, it's about how the move was done.

“It means a lot to us," said Tom Roth, Commander of American Legion Frank Wendland Post 253. "We have ceremonies there, we have dedications there every year.”

The move upset local veterans like Roth, who say they were left out of the decision and that the new spot is not as big as the old spot. They want the move put up for a citywide vote.

"They had a plan. They had this plan for the park, and they were gonna go through with it no matter what,” Roth said.

So Roth signed a letter sent to Paruch and other city officials telling them they’re not welcome at this years Memorial Day events, writing in all caps "YOUR PRESENCE WILL NOT BE WELCOMED."

"They have continually thrown things at us and done things underhandedly with us, that we didn't feel that they represent the real way we feel in Royal Oak about our veterans,” Roth said.

However Paruch said she’s still coming to honor her father-in-law Henry Paruch, who died in the line of duty in 1952.

She added that over the last 70 years, the memorial has been moved three times. The most recent time was in 2007, when an ordinance passed to zone that location specifically for the memorial.

Paruch says the new spot is still in that same spot zoned for the memorial, per city ordinance.

“It's such a short distance between the old location and the new one, unless you really knew where it was you wouldn’t think there’s any difference,” Paruch said. "More than anything else, they will now be handicap accessible. Someone will be able to roll right up to those monuments and touch them.”

Paruch also says the new space will fit as many if not more people than before, and that they spent months taking public input before the decision was made.

"This is not a veterans park, this is a community park," Paruch said. "That process we wanted to be as democratic as possible, and we think we achieved that.”

Construction for the park should be wrapped up by the end of October.