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Evelyn Hagen, Auxiliary president, releases a wreath into the Fish Hook River at Red Bridge Park in honor of those who have fought for their country. Taps was played at the park and a firing squad saluted fallen soldiers. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Fallen soldiers remembered on Monday

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Maj. Gen. John Smith thanked those who have given their lives to serve in the armed forces.

Smith, who gave a special address Monday at a Park Rapids Memorial Day service, shared his vision of the men and women who serve in the National Guard.

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"Respond when called and be ready," he said.

Smith has spoken to many groups of soldiers over the years and not one failed to respond, he said.

"Military service is unique in one respect," he said. "It is the only form of public service in which you can be ordered to give your life for the service of your country."

It makes this Memorial Day that much more important, Smith said.

"Let's not forget the original meaning," he said.

Smith retired from the Air Force in June 2004 after more than 42 years of military service. He lives part time during the summer in the Park Rapids area.

He retired as a master pilot with more than 5,000 hours in various fighter aircraft. He saw service in Vietnam from Jan. 1965 to Jan. 1966 with the 311th Air Commando Squadron. He also served for several years in overseas assignments in Europe. In 1973, Smith resigned his regular commission and joined the Air National Guard as a reserve pilot. He went on to command at the squadron, group and wing levels before being chosen to serve as Adjutant General of Ohio.

Smith flew the following aircraft during his career: RB-57, C-123, T-37, T-38, F-102, F-100, F-4E, A-7D and KC-135R. He is a graduate of the Air Force's Squadron Officers School (1965) and the Air Command and Staff College (1984). He also attended the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., graduating in June 1985.

Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer also spoke at the service about remembering the true meaning of Memorial Day.

He read somewhere than Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer. But Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend, he said.

Homer recalled a visit to Arlington National Cemetery and thought about the hill after hill of gravestones.

"This is the meaning of Memorial Day," he said.

Home asked that people take a chance to pause at 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, step back and look up to heaven to "thank our soldiers and thank our heroes."

A floral tribute was held at Red Bridge Park followed by a service, flag folding ceremony and flag disposal at the All-Veterans Memorial Park.

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