Multiple services for U.S. military took place over Memorial Day weekend. Here are snapshots of two of them.
The standards of the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps. and Coast Guard stood lined up in the chapel at Lake Minnetonka Shores, backdrop to Taps, to “Flanders Fields” and to a chair draped with the black and white POW/MIA flag in honor of the 83,114 Americans still unaccounted for.
Gary McPherson, former commander of the Maple Plain American Legion and with a poppy in his lapel and his service photo tucked into his nametag, joined Vietnam Veteran Ron Braaten, originally from Lisbon, N. Dak., in leading the Memorial Day service for LMS’ 60 veterans the morning of Friday, May 28. Honored during the service were the 11 veterans whom LMS had lost over the past year.
Braaten lent his youthful humor to the service, flashing the V Sign and saying the war against COVID-19 (in Braaten’s military lingo, “COVID One-Niner”) was one that was now, finally, being won, dog-gone-it!
Hanging at one end of the chapel was a banner with the wartime photographs of the LMS veterans. Included on the banner—and in attendance May 28—were Ruth Rosen and Dick Brown, both of them 99 and both of them having served in WWII. Rosen was an Army nurse stationed in the South Pacific, and she showed up Friday in full dress uniform, medals and all. Brown flew B-52s. He never did get enough of the planes: after the war, Brown piloted for Northwest Airlines (now Delta) for more than 30 years.
Maple Plain American Legion Post #514 had provided the flags for the service Friday; the Legion then held its usual service at Lewis Cemetery on Sunday, May 30. Fourteen of the post’s veterans shared memories of their time in the military, and current post Commander James Meyer read the names of 330 members, now deceased. The service at Lewis ended with three volleys and a playing of Taps by Orono High School student John DeLong.
This year, the Hamel VFW in its traditional service gave special honor to the medics and corpsmen.
“In combat, when the shooting starts and people are getting hit—everybody goes down. The scream goes out, ‘corpsmen up!’ The corpsmen get up with their First Aid van—they don’t have weapons—they get up with their First Aid van and they go out to help the wounded Marine or the wounded soldier and that’s how they died in such great numbers.”
Jim Heimerl’s voice carried out over the memorial at Nelson Lakeside Park in Long Lake Monday morning, May 31. Heimerl, commander of the Hamel VFW, had just come out with a delegation of veterans after visiting veterans’ sites at Union Cemetery and St. George’s.
Long Lake Mayor Charlie Miner gave his thanks that day; as did Paul Mercer, a Vietnam-era corpsman and the post’s chaplain, who ended early what he had to say when emotion overtook him, voice breaking as he gave a stanza of the Lee Greenwood standard:
“I’m proud to be an American
Where at least I know I’m free
And I won’t forget those who died
Who gave that right to me.”
Said Heimerl, after the service, “You ask him, ‘when were you in Vietnam?’ And he’ll tell you, ‘last night.’”