For several decades, Anoka County veterans organization have marked Memorial Day at two services.
This year, with the theme “Never Forget Ever Honor” was no exception as services took place at two locations today (Saturday, May 25), the first at Morningside Memorial Gardens on University Avenue in Coon Rapids, then at the Veterans Memorial in Bunker Hills Regional Park.
A parade from 117th Avenue in Blaine up University Avenue to the cemetery kicked off the first service this morning.
Parade participants included veterans organizations from the county as well as Boy Scouts.
The parade paused at the spot where Sand Creek passes under University Avenue for World War II veteran Lyle Carpenter to toss a wreath into the creek as a rifle volley was fired by members or the Anoka County chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America to remember those who have been lost at sea.
The names of veterans buried in Morningside’s Field of Honor were read by emcee Gary Exley, Anoka County Veterans Council chairperson with each name accompanied by the tolling of the large bell on the grounds of the cemetery.
Stan Kowalski, Fridley VFW Post, a past state and national VFW commander, presented his Angel brigade, which comprises girls who placed the head wear of all the branches of service on chairs draped in black to remember those who have been lost, plus a POW/MIA flag on a chair.
Kowalski read a poem, in which he said, “Like them or love them, tell them now.”
Guest speaker at both services was 1st Lt. Benjamin Johnson, executive officer of the U.S. Army Reserve’s TH3 203rd Transportation Unit, which is heading to Mississippi in a couple of weeks for training prior to deployment in Afghanistan.
“It is a great honor to talk to you today and I thank you for coming to remember,” Johnson said.
Unlike the Fourth of July holiday, Memorial Day is “kind of sad,” he said.
But there is also a positive – the idea of sacrifice, Johnson said.
According to Johnson, people in the military realize that at some level it might cost them their life.
“It’s the nature of the business we are in,” Johnson said.
“Why do we do it? The answer is we love our country, love our freedom, love our family, love our friends and love our neighbors.
“It’s an easy decision to serve.”
To Johnson, Memorial Day is a day to celebrate the lives of those who been willing to lay down their lives, not mourn them, he said.
“They did something very honorable and we should appreciate that,” Johnson said.
Wreaths were laid at the Field of Honor at Morningside by representatives of veterans organizations as well as by children.
Patricia Schon, past national auxiliary president of the World War I veterans, read “In Flanders Field,” while Bill Steffl sang “God Bless America” and trumpet player and veteran Harold Reiner performed “The Service Songs,” “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “For Thine is the Glory.”
Doris Anderson, Anoka County Veterans Council chaplain, gave the invocation and benediction.
Veterans organizations taking part in the services were the posts and auxiliaries of Anoka County VFW and American Legion posts, Military Order of the Cooties, 40/8, Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and Desert Storm veterans as well as Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
Following the service at the Veterans Memorial in Bunker Hills Regional Park, the Anoka County Veterans Council host a picnic.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]