By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE This year’s Prairie Days parade grand marshal is Herb Hoen, a longtime Lester Prairie resident and Vietnam War veteran.
He and his wife, Diane, will ride in the grand parade starting at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 14.
“I’ve lived in Lester Prairie now for 49 years,” Herb said, explaining that he is originally from Norwood.
Diane is a Lester Prairie native who graduated from Lester Prairie High School. The couple’s three children Troy, Tina, and Tricia also graduated from Lester Prairie.
Herb has been involved in the Lester Prairie American Legion for the past 29 years. His favorite part is the camaraderie with other Legion members. He also enjoys helping to select local participants for Boys State and the Legionville School Patrol Training Center. (This year’s Legionville camp summer sessions were cancelled due to a floating bog that landed in front of the Legionville beach.)
Herb is one of 9 million Americans who served in the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War era. He was in the Army from 1965-67.
Although the war has been over for decades, Herb is still dealing with its effects. About six years ago, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that starts in plasma and bone marrow. There is no test to prove the cause, but the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital stated that the cancer is likely a result of exposure to Agent Orange, a herbicide the US military used during the Vietnam War.
An article about Herb’s illness was printed in the Feb. 2, 2014 edition of the Herald Journal. Since that time, Herb has had a stem cell transplant, and he continues to fight the cancer.
“I’m not in remission, but it’s under control,” he said.
One week after Herb got back from Vietnam, he began working as a machinist at Nilfisk Advance in Plymouth. During most of his 43 years there, Herb carpooled with other commuters from Lester Prairie and surrounding communities.
“I had a 15-passenger van,” Herb said.
Herb also played softball in his younger years, for a team in Norwood. Later on, he enjoyed watching softball games that were played during Prairie Days.
Herb and Diane’s other Prairie Days memories include watching tractor pulls, taking their kids to the carnival, and helping with the hamburger stand years ago.
“At that time, it was called Longhorn Days,” Herb recalled.
This year, Herb plans to enjoy a hamburger, instead of cooking them. He’s also excited for the parade, and to “see what else is going on in town that day.”
Prairie Days begins today (Friday, July 13) and runs through Sunday, July 15. Schedule details were printed on page 1A of last week’s paper.
Look for photos from the festivities in the Friday, July 20 edition of the Herald Journal.