Rain put a damper on the annual Memorial Day service at Morningside Memorial Gardens, Coon Rapids, this morning (Saturday, May 26).
But it did not drown out the message – “lest we forget” the men and women who have sacrificed their lives in service of their country.
The annual program presented by the veterans organizations in Anoka County has taken place for decades the Saturday before Memorial Day at two locations – Morningside and at the Veterans Memorial at Bunker Hills Regional Park.
With the rain coming down and thunder and lightning in the area, the parade of veterans organization and Boy Scout troops from 117th Avenue up University Avenue to the cemetery was canceled.
But the weather did not stop World War II veteran Lyle Carpenter from going ahead with a long-standing tradition – tossing a wreath into Sand Creek to remember those lost at sea, with members of the Anoka County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America firing a rifle salute.
Master of ceremonies Marv Roepke, Anoka County Veterans Council chairman and commander of the Coon Rapids VFW, read the names of veterans buried in the Morningside Field of Honor as two Boy Scouts tolled the bell at the cemetery after each name was announced.
Then World War II veteran and past national VFW commander Stan Kowalski of the Fridley VFW Post presented his Angel service where girls of the Fridley VFW Junior Unit placed military headwear on empty chairs, which were draped in black, to remember those lost from all five branches of the military – Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard – while a MIA/POW flag was draped over another chair in honor of MIAs and POWs.
Representative from veterans organizations taking part in the service placed wreaths at the Field of Honor as did children.
Guest speaker at both programs was Maj. Gen. Gerald E. Lang, assistant adjutant general – Army, Minnesota Army National Guard, St. Paul.
In his military career, which dates back to 1971 when he completed basic training, Lang has deployed overseas to Bosnia/Herzegovina where he served as the deputy commander for multi-national brigade (north).
Lang also served as the 34th Infantry Division deputy commander for a multi-national division in Iraq, comprising four brigades and several separate battalions with over 16,000 personnel of all branches of service.
In addition, the program featured the trumpet playing of veteran Harold Reiner and singing of Betty Orton, Fridley VFW Auxiliary, who is also director the Goldentones choir from the Coon Rapids Senior Center.
Jamie Bahl, Anoka County Veterans Council chaplain, gave the invocation and benediction. She also recited “America’s Answer,” a poem that dates back to World War I.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]