by Dennis Dalman
On a beautiful morning, several hundred people gathered for a Sartell Memorial Day ceremony Monday to honor all military personnel who served their country and the world in wars throughout American history.
Since the United States declared its Declaration of Independence, almost 500,000 Americans have died in wars, and many more have suffered injuries from mild to severe.
At the podium in Veterans’ Park in Sartell, American Legion member Rollie Weis of Sartell said, “I’m with a unique group, a dying group – World War II veterans. “How many here this morning are World War II veterans?”
An eerie silence settled upon the audience as no one spoke up or raised hands.
“You see what I mean?” Weis said to his listeners.
Weis then proceeded to read the Legion Prayer.
All of the speakers at the ceremony emphasized the fact that Americans should honor all veterans, past and present, living or deceased because of the sacrifices they have made, including the ultimate sacrifice – dying for their country, for freedom for fellow Americans and for other oppressed people throughout the world.
The speakers included Sartell Mayor Joe Perske, State Rep. Tim O’Driscoll, State Sen. Michelle Fischbach of Paynesville, Sartell American Legion Commander Flip Mastey and Nicole Severson (an aide to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann) who read a message from Bachmann.
“We must keep alive the memory of the soldiers who have lost it all,” Bachmann’s message read. “They have given their all, and for that we will remain forever grateful.”
Perske talked about how small cities and large cities, big cemeteries and small cemeteries are filled with soldiers living and dead who have given their lives for freedom so that people worldwide may live free from oppression.
“(This day) is about them,” Perske said. “May they never be forgotten.”
O’Driscoll, who had participated in the Sartell Apple Duathlon just two days before the ceremony, told the audience about a remarkable man whose attitude typifies the selflessness of American soldiers. Robert Powers of White Bear Lake, a former Marine, completed the grueling marathon. Powers is 88 years old. When O’Driscoll complimented him, Powers – every bit the modest Marine –shrugged off the compliment by saying he was just doing a job.
O’Driscoll said Americans can never fully repay soldiers for the losses and the pain they bear. The thanks and gratitude toward them should never lessen, he added.
Fischbach reminded the audience of the values soldiers have fought and died for: God, freedom, country, at-home families and the global human family, hope, expanding justice, peace and opportunities to strengthen those values in America and in other countries.
Two special guests were Sartell City Council members Steve Hennes and David Peterson. Hennes is a Vietnam veteran; Peterson, in recent years, served a tour of duty in Iraq and another one more recently in Afghanistan.
Other highlights of the ceremony included the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts leading the Pledge of Allegiance, American Legion Commander Flip Mastey’s introduction of the mayor, a benediction by associate pastor Michael Wolfbauer, a song sung a cappella by Rick Stang and John Jordan and a reading of “Flanders Field” by Girl Scout Kali Enstad.
Toward the end of the ceremony, a wreath was placed at the foot of the Veterans’ Monument by Commander Mastey, O’Driscoll and Fischbach. After the playing of Taps and a gun salute, Legion members retired the colors. Girls Scouts and Boy Scouts then placed small flags along the pathways in the park.
Throughout the ceremony, in the interims between the speeches, the Sartell Community Band performed medleys of patriotic tunes, and the Sartell Community Singers also entertained the appreciative audience with songs.
After the ceremony, participants socialized and enjoyed refreshments.