“Someone is never really gone when someone else remembers their name.”

That message was shared by Waconia city councilman and teacher Carl Pierson, and echoed by other speakers at the 2021 Memorial Day observance at City Square Park.

After a year with limited services due to the pandemic, the Waconia American Legion and VFW welcomed a throng of visitors back this year to the traditional park and cemetery programs.

The greatest honor we can bestow the fallen, Pierson said, “is to live a life they would admire…a life these heroes would be proud to call their own.”

Keynote speaker was retired Navy Lt. Commander Mike Peterson, who flew 269 combat missions in Vietnam in 1968-1969 aboard Huey helicopter gunships, and was awarded 17 air medals for service and the Purple Heart.

He shared the story of harrowing air rescue on Aug. 19, 1968 of a Navy SEAL team in trouble during that war. Air crews had to jettison rockets and dump ammo, he said, to lighten the gunships enough to carry the dead and wounded.

“For Americans who don’t remember the price people paid,” Lt. Peterson also shared the following poem titled “It is the veteran”:

“It is the veteran, not the preacher who has given us freedom of religion. It is the veteran, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press. It is the veteran, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech. It is the veteran, not the campus organizer who has given us freedom to assemble. It is the veteran, not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the veteran, not the politician who has given us the right to vote. It is the veteran who salutes the flag, who serves under the flag and whose coffin will be draped by the flag.”

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