by Dennis Dalman
Memorial Day in Sartell began on a misty morning, which gradually turned into a slight drip-drizzle, but that kind of somber, mournful weather seemed to fit the mood of the ceremony – the sadness of the sacrifices of so many American soldiers and their families for their country.
Once again, the ceremony took place in Veterans Park. This year, surely because many thought it would be rained out, attendance was not as good as years before. Some brought umbrellas; some wore rain slickers, but most attendees, including dedicated members of the Sartell Community Band, put up stoically with the misty drizzle as they became soggier, as the band played on.
Emceed expertly by Sartell Boy Scout Darin Lunde, the ceremony began with the posting of colors by the American Legion Post 277 of Sartell, its members marching down the park’s path led by bagpiper Joe Linneman of St. Cloud.
The musicians played the National Anthem, after which the people who’d gathered were welcomed by Legion Commander Flip Mastey, followed by an invocation by Pastor Jim Goodew of Grace Baptist Fellowship Church of Sartell. Sartell Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts then led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Before the speakers took to the podium, the band played a medley of the signature songs of each of the U.S. Armed Forces.
David Peterson, Sartell City Council member and a long-time member of the Minnesota National Guard, welcomed those who attended. Soldiers, he said, know what the word “commitment” means because they – and their families – live the word. It’s far from easy for soldiers to leave their loved ones, Peterson noted, and their families – the ones they had to leave behind – also paid a price through commitment, even though they had no choice in the matter of a loved one leaving for distant places. That is why, he added, we should remember not only those who died and those who served but the loved ones who were left behind.
After a reading of the poem Flanders Field by a Girl Scout, the keynote speaker Sgt. Anthony Housey emphasized in remembering the sacrifices of soldiers, every community must become involved as a collective effort. It’s important he said that not just some people remember sacrifices on Memorial Day but that an entire community of people together all remember and honor the sacrifices.
Housey, who lives in St. Cloud, is a master sergeant in the U.S. Army who has seen duty as a media point man in Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo and Iraq.
Giving a brief summary of several wars, Housey reminded those present of the many Minnesotans who died in wars.
“Don’t forget all the things they did to make this country great and to challenge everyone in your community to make this country even better,” Housey said.
Minnesota Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) told those assembled that his proudest moments as a legislator have been his efforts on the House Veterans Affairs Committee where he and others strive to improve the lot of veterans. Some families, he reminded the audience, have paid the price through four and even five deployments of their loved ones. With that thought in mind, O’Driscoll and other legislators worked to pass a bill setting aside every Saturday before Mother’s Day as a day to honor families of veterans.
O’Driscoll and others also worked to get additional funding for de-escalation training for law enforcement so they can learn to deal with insight in crises involving veterans who may be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorders in volatile domestic situations.
O’Driscoll said he recently heard something that rang so true. Veterans are those “who wrote a blank check to America for an amount up to and including their lives.”
Next at the podium, Minnesota Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) gave a brief roll call of the names of the men and women who were the first to die in several wars, from the Civil War to modern times. She said she read those names because she wanted to remind everyone present that all veterans who lost their lives were real people, each with a unique name, each with a family, each with a life.
“They stood up for us, for our country, for our freedoms,” she said.
As the band played Hymn to the Fallen, a contingent of four people (Legion members and guest speakers) laid a wreath at the monument to veterans in Veterans Park. Members of Legion Post 428 of Waite Park, who were invited as special guests, then delivered a gun salute followed by the playing of Taps by Boy Scouts Nate and Jacob Miller.
As the band played the poignant Ashokan Farewell, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts placed miniature flags all along the pathways through the park. After the Legion members retired the colors, the ceremony ended with people socializing – some wet, some under umbrellas – as they enjoyed beverages and rolls served by Scouts and Legion members.