County Honor Rolls
Courthouse, US-23 at Chisholm St
Alpena, Alpena County, Michigan
The wreaths are recent, put in place for Memorial Day, but most of the names have been there now for decades. Unlike the temporary nature of a single day celebration, these men are gone forever - leaving only their memories and their acts of sacrifice for us to contemplate. A few families of Alpena faced the bitter act of receiving their notices twice as brothers and cousins joined the fight. The Collins family lost two in World War I, the Brilinski's, LaCross' and Kowalsi's each lost two in the second World War and the Brousseau family gave three of their sons in that war.
Phelps Collins was born here in 1894, a first generation American born to first generation Canadians from Scotland and Ireland. There is little doubt that familial ties to Great Britain prodded "Eddie" to sail to France to join the Lafayette Flying Corps. The Phelps Collins airport began at Alpena not long after the 1918 Armistice as a grass field training facility for the Army Air Corps. When it was formally dedicated in 1931 it was named to honor Collins.
During the time of World Wars I and II this lower peninsula county was very distant from the most highly populated areas of Michigan. Many visitors here came by train or by steamer. One of Ernest Hemingway's stories described Alpena briefly as a rail stop he once made.. This town, as did all of their neighboring communities of Michigan in the northern areas, celebrated their 'boys' in uniform while coping with the lack of manpower to bring in summer crops, run logging operations, and man the Great Lakes freighters. The names inscribed here represent the losses, but not all of the sacrifices . . .