Over the past few years, The American Legion has been disheartened by the improper handling of thousands of veterans’ remains and by unmarked gravesites at some of our country’s most sacred cemeteries. These cemeteries represent the sacrifices our servicemembers made to protect and defend our nation.
Two Legion Riders have taken this sentiment to heart, making it their mission to locate the gravesites of nearly 2,600 Michigan veterans killed in the Vietnam War. In doing this, they create biographical books that provide viewers with a more intimate understanding of the war’s local impact. The husband-and-wife team, Charlie Babcock, a member of Harry Ollrich American Legion Post 4 in Mt. Clemens, Mich., and his wife, Ruth, took their mission a step further by ensuring the gravesites they came in contact with were in repair and had proper headstones. The Babcocks’ mission is another testament to how much our members care for their brothers and sisters.
Whether by motorcycle or RV, the Babcocks traveled throughout Michigan and around the country - as far as Nova Scotia - to locate gravesites of the Michigan veterans. They registered each veteran’s gravesite by taking a picture of the headstone and writing down his or her name and military service. And during their search, they came upon many unmarked gravesites and took it upon themselves to locate and contact the veteran’s relatives to get permission to order and place a U.S. government-issued marker on the gravesite.
And whenever the Babcocks visited a cemetery where a Michigan Vietnam veteran was buried, they made sure the veterans name was put on a list to have an American flag placed on the gravesite every Memorial Day.
It is an honor to know that while the Babcocks have never met many of the 2,600 Michigan Vietnam veterans, they view them as family and ensure the heroes rest in honor.
The impact of the Babcocks’ efforts can be viewed in the eight biographical books that they helped create. The books are filled with photos, burial information and stories from family and friends of the Michigan Vietnam veterans, and currently accompany the Michigan Vietnam Traveling Memorial.