By Kristen Miller
COKATO, MN Before family and friends gathered for an afternoon barbecue, many came out to acknowledge Memorial Day’s true purpose to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in serving their country.
Following the annual Memorial Day parade in downtown Cokato, many gathered for a program in the Cokato Elementary Auditorium featuring music by the Dassel-Cokato Marching Band and the Litchfield Area Male Chorus.
Rev. Mark Little of Stockholm Lutheran Church provided the invocation and Laura Rostomily, Girls State representative and auxiliary member, shared a poem of what it’s like to be a soldier, entitled “Soldier’s Life” by John Davis.
Boys State representative Tyler Krekelberg read, “That Ragged Old Flag,” which traces each tear and stain in a particular county courthouse flag through the various battles and wars it endured.
Retired Navy Reservist Ron Hungerford was the keynote speaker during the program.
Hungerford, who is also currently a Dassel-Cokato High School science teacher, shared some of his experiences with the Navy Reserve and asked each veteran to stand and be recognized through applause by the audience.
He talked about the various monuments and memorials made of granite around the country and in our own community that are meant as a reminder of the sacrifice made in our country’s defense.
He spoke of two brave young Marines, Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter, who put their own lives on the line in April 2008 to save their fellow Marines.
Hungerford explained that the two Marines stood their ground at the entrance of their compound while a truck carrying 2,000 pounds of explosives headed towards them.
With only seconds to spare, they fired their rifles.
Though they died in the blast, they saved countless other lives.
“The lives they saved are their legacy,” Hungerford said.
During his speech, Hungerford also recognized Jamie Michalsky, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2004, while she was an inactive Army Reservist working in Afghanistan.
He commended Michalsky for staying to work in such a hostile country even after her mission with the Army Reserves was up.
Hungerford told the audience that there are many stories of dedicated soldiers that deserve telling and retelling to honor their sacrifice and cherish their memories.
The program also included roll call, honor guard, and taps, and a benediction by Rev. Mark Little.