By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN The people of Cokato paid tribute to those who died serving their country to protect its freedom, during the annual Memorial Day parade and program.
Following the parade, Logan Benda, the Legion’s Boys Stater, read a poem titled “Come Visit My Grave” by Jim Rolfes, which clearly identified why the day has been set aside.
Laura Rostomily, a junior auxiliary member, also read the poem “In Flander’s Fields,” written by John McCrae, who is said to have written the poem about a field filled with blood-red poppies where many of his friends had died during World War I.
Pastor Allen Jones gave the invocation and benediction.
Mike Ackerman of Post 209 paid tribute to the unknown soldier by laying a wreath on the cross displayed on the Cokato Elementary auditorium floor.
He also read the names of servicemen killed in action or in the line of duty while members of the Cub Scouts snuffed out a candle for each.
The Dassel-Cokato High School marching band played “The Star Spangled Banner” to begin the program.
The Litchfield Area Male Chorus, under the direction of Randy Wilson, sang throughout the program, including the “Armed Forces Pride of America,” paying tribute to each branch of the US military.
National Guardsman and 2007 DC graduate Mark Morris was also recognized on stage for his recent tour in Iraq.
Staff Sergeant Matt Lehto, a 1992 Dassel-Cokato graduate who has served two tours in Iraq, gave the Memorial Day address.
Lehto took this time to thank his wife, Heidi; his family, and the community of Cokato, for standing by him and the other service men and women from the community.
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Lehto said, adding that he just gets up and goes to work everyday.
His job in the Marine Corps bomb squad is one of the most dangerous and is filled with a lot of stress, Lehto explained. He tries not to bring that stress back home with him, he said.
As part of his job, he works with the four branches of the military, which he feels fortunate about.
He closed by saying it’s been an honor and a privilege to be a part of this community and to have carried the flag for the Legion during the parades in the past few years.