Herald and Journal, June 7, 1999

Memorial Day 1999

Howard Lake | Lester Prairie | Waverly | Winsted

Howard Lake Memorial Day 1999

By Andrea Vargo

Freedom has its price, said Major Rod Holland, featured speaker at the Howard Lake Memorial Day service Monday.

The veterans who stood lonely watches in faraway lands, whose greatest joy came with mail call and a letter from home, knew all too well the price of the freedoms they fought for, Holland told the gathered crowd.

The families, whose sons and daughters walked away for the last time, came to know the price of those freedoms, too, he stated.

"The empty chair at the Thanksgiving table, the few less presents under the Christmas tree, the quiet moment when someone remembers who's special day this should have been," Holland said.

Holland paid tribute to the families of the veterans and said, "America owes you a debt of gratitude beyond words. We all know the price they have paid so that everyone can share the American freedom which is found nowhere else in the world."

He asked why Americans have to pay this price.

"It is said that evil will triumph when good men sit and do nothing," noted Holland.

Not only is it important to face a threat such as a Saddam Hussain, but it is paramount to be vigilant against the internal threats that occur daily.

"(These threats can erode) our freedoms, one at a time, until we become prisoners within our own homes," he said.

Those who would lower the standards our veterans ha e fought and died for, must not be allowed to stay in power and control where American soldiers go, and where they might die, just to satisfy some political agenda, said Holland.

It is not the soldier who chooses the fight, but it is the soldier and his/her family who pays the price, he said.

Holland encouraged people to get involved in the political process to ensure elected officials represent the people who elected them and not pursue some personal agenda once they enter office.

Holland read from a favorite poem, whose author is unknown.

"It is the veteran, not the press, who gives us the freedom of the press. It is the veteran, not the poet who gives us the freedom of speech.

"It is the veteran, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate.

"It is the veteran who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag who gives the protester the freedom to burn the flag."

Lester Prairie Memorial Day 1999

By Luis Puga

Lester Prairie citizens gathered on a chilly Memorial Day to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans last Monday.

Even before the official ceremony began, the city's cemetery along McLeod Co. Rd. 1 had visitors walking amidst the tombstones.

Around 10 a.m., a solemn procession made its way to the cemetery to the beat of a sole drum. It was made up of veterans from the Amercian Legion Post 463, the color guard, the Lester Prairie American Legion Auxiliary, the high school band, and members of the fire department.

The ceremony was opened by American Legion Post 463 Commander Roland Bruckschen who said it was good to see those who had turned out.

Then, Rev. Sherri Sandoz of Bethel Lutheran Church gave the invocation, saying that those surviviors who bear the grief of loss needed to be at the cemetery that day.

She also observed how, sadly, there were more graves to decorate this year. She finished by saying that God does not will tragedy, but that good might come from it. Her comments were followed by 30 seconds of silence.

The main speaker, Linda Schwichtenberg, formerly of the U.S. Navy, added her own thoughts to the day.

She talked of how most people on Memorial Day turn their memory to past conflicts, as well as current ones that make the headlines of the day.

"It's difficult, at times, to grasp the heart-wrenching meaning of it all," she said.

Schwichtenberg said that the most important memory are people's own memories of the day and their own participation in past, local Memorial Day ceremonies.

She said, "We recall also how the gathering of local veterans, the color guard and Legion members, demonstrated their best military marching maneuvers up and down main street for a few extra special seconds, to preserve the moment and add the the memories. We always watched and smiled in admiration."

She then also recognized how the graves had increased in number. She said, "Remember too how flowers were transformed into individual real flower wreaths, hand made by the faithful Legion Auxiliary members, were placed individually upon each of these white crosses as the names were read. Of course, there were fewer of them then. As my dad likes to remind me every year, there are more of them now, than there are of us."

She then bemoaned how the tradition of entering the service by law has disappeared, thus decreasing the number of veterans.

She said, "To that end let me challenge each of you to remember these veterans, these friends, neighbors, relatives, comrades and business people. Although each of them indeed served their country, to an even greater degree, they also served their community."

Schwichtenberg encouraged the audience to share the memories of their hometown Memorial Day experiences with the younger generation, explaining the importance of observing the day, the traditions and etiquette that surround it as well.

She closed by saying, "But in the end, remember the wonderfully peaceful country and home town community in which we are free to reside, and please help our younger generations to respect and appreciate the true meaningfulness of it all."

On hand, were members from that younger generation Schwichtenberg referred to. Boys State Representative Josh Eckstein told the gathered about General Logan's Orders, which instituted the first Memorial Day as it was first known, Decoration day.

Also, Girls State Representative Laura Fleischmann read from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Two students from the high school band, Jason Thiel and Terri Fillbrandt, were on hand to play "Taps" for the crowd. The band, as a whole, added their renditions of "Star Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful."

Preceding the roll call of deceased veterans, was a vocal solo of "God Bless America" from David Rue, the Lester Prairie High School music instructor. After one verse, the crowd joined in for the rest of the presentation.

The roll call of the deceased veterans was read by Post Adjutant Robert Niederkorn and was followed by the Legion Auxiliary placing a flower wreath to commemorate the solders who had passed on.

Again the procession moved, this time out of the cemetery, to the beat of a sole drummer. It snaked through town to end near the city hall.

Waverly Memorial Day 1999

By Andrea Vargo

Waverly hometown World War II hero General John O'Leary, spoke at the Waverly Memorial Day service about pride and courage.

O'Leary ...list accomplishments

He spoke to the assembly of the pride they could feel in honoring the memory of the veterans they have known.

"All of them have shared a common attribute - bravery - the courage to defend a principle," he said.

The tale of Cemetery Ridge, near Gettysburg, Penn., unfolded, as he recalled the courage 262 young men from Minnesota displayed, as they defended the high ground against 1,500 attacking rebels, during the Civil War.

These brave soldiers not only held that line against impossible odds, they turned the tide of the Battle of Gettysburg and changed the course of the Civil War, he said.

At the end of the day, there were only 47 soldiers left. To honor them, the Minnesota Viking Division was named the 47th Infantry Division.

"These soldiers of the Civil War shared something with the Minnesotans we are honoring here today. Bravery, yes. But bravery in the sense of courage to defend a principle," he commented.

He mentioned the persecution of the Muslims in Kosovo and quoted from a speech by the president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel.

Havel said, "No decent person can stand by and watch the state-directed murder of other people It is simply not permissible to murder people, to drive them from their homes, to torture them, and confiscate their property.

"Human rights are above the rights of any state, because states are human creations, human beings are the creation of God."

Look out at the names on those crosses, he said.

"In each and every battle, our men and women fought to protect and serve other people. None of them asked about the skin color or the religion of the people they were protecting," stated O'Leary.

"Here, today, when we hear the familiar names, we each have our own memories. Each of you must feel as I do. your heart grows a bit warmer when your own family is mentioned. The last time I heard Dan Graham call out the names of my brothers, Paul O'Leary and Myles O'Leary, I puffed up a bit, said a silent 'thanks Dan' for remembering us, and whispered 'present' (for my brothers)."

O'Leary said, "After everything is over, I can stand in the park, look out at the trees, the buildings, and the streets of Waverly and think of the people I've known.

"True, many of us are gone, and the rest of us are growing older, but all of us are 'present' here today, proud to be here, proud to be part of Memorial Day in Waverly."

Winsted Memorial Day 1999

By Jane Otto

It was Memorial Day, May 31.

Threatening clouds and a northwesterly wind didn't diminish the size of the crowd or the sincerity of the event.

Legionnaire Luke Otto, as he has done for more than the past 15 years, welcomed those present to Legion Post 407's Memorial Day observance at Winsted Cemetery.

Winsted's mayor, Floyd Sneer, also welcomed the assembly.

"Whatever your reasons for being here ­ be it patriotic or to be close to a loved one ­ you are here and that's important," said Sneer.

McLeod County Veterans Service Officer George Scheidt was the morning's main speaker. Scheidt, active in the Air Force from 1969-'89, served billets in the United States, Germany, United Kingdom and Korea.

Scheidt presented a history of Memorial Day. He told how General John Logan, influenced by the idea of druggist Henry Welles of Waterloo, N.Y., gave a general order to designate May 30, 1868, as a day to decorate the graves of those who died in defense of their country.

"'Let no wanton foot trod rudely on such hallowed grounds. . . Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, nor ravage of time to the present or to the coming generations that we forget, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided republic,'" said Scheidt as he read Logan's words on that first observance.

Scheidt reminded his listeners why they were gathered there.

"Many brave individuals have fought and died for our freedoms that we have today, but how many are taking time today to thank them by being at a memorial service such as this, or taking a moment of silence to say thank you?" said Scheidt.

He questioned whether Memorial Day has become a time of celebration rather than a time of remembrance for those who defended the freedoms we enjoy.

He reiterated the words of Calvin Coolidge, "'A nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.'"

Scheidt gave a plea for an amendment to protect the nation's flag. He said elected officials defeated such an amendment because it "would infringe upon individuals' freedom of speech and expression."

"It's the men and women who loved this flag and nation that paid the ultimate price ­ their lives ­ for the freedom of speech and expression that we have today," said Scheidt.

He called for a need to also remember the veterans and widows still among us. Many, he said, continually suffer trauma from war's horrible ordeals.

"These are the silent battles these veterans and family members must live with on a daily basis. This makes me cherish the freedoms that we have today even more," said Scheidt.

As Scheidt looked out on the still crowd, he again reminded them why they came.

"We should feel secure knowing there are still many young men and women who are now serving our country, at home and in many foreign lands, to help promote and protect the freedoms they were given by the ones we are here to honor and pay homage to today," he said.

Legionnaire William Wemhoff read the names of Winsted's deceased veterans, after which the wind died down somewhat. Rather than the rustle of leaves or the heavy flap of the flag, only the somber sounds of "Taps" coming from Jeff Campbell's bugle were heard.

The national anthem was played, a prayer was said, the wind picked up again and all went home ­ remembering.

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