Honoring those who serve
By Nick Longworth
At a nearly packed event, current and former men and women who served in any branch of the armed forces were honored on Monday, May 26 at the annual Memorial Day service in the Park Rapids Area High School auditorium.
Commander Bob Safratowich began the ceremony - which also honored the 95th anniversary of the American Legion - by welcoming all those in attendance and introducing the National Anthem performed by the area high school band.
Chaplain Fred Brown gave the invocation, saying he was “so proud of Park Rapids and the surrounding areas for the patriotism they show at all of these gatherings. You bless us by your presence today.
Brown then spoke of the hardships that past and present servicemen have gone through in the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, saying, “America’s greatness is preserved because of the heroes who serve every day, whether in the military or in public service; they all answer the highest call by regularly placing their own lives at risk for others. We the American people owe you a great debt of gratitude.”
Marv Vredenberg then paid tribute to past Post Commander Mike Swanson, who died earlier this year, reciting some of his service accomplishments as well as personal memories from Mike’s wife, Linda.
“Mike was a man who enjoyed life, and lived it to the fullest. It seems there was nothing he wasn’t willing to do; he was always willing to help out family, friends and neighbors. People always came to Mike for advice, and he usually always had an answer for them,” said Vredenberg, speaking through Linda’s notes.
“And if he didn’t, he could give them a big enough line of BS that they would take it as gospel, just because he knew everything,” Vredenberg joked to an endearing crowd.
“Mike was proud of Post 212 and he wanted everyone else to be proud of it. He would often correct people on how to properly wear their uniform, myself included. Mike didn’t let cancer get him down, or let it consume his life. He would tell me ‘it is what it is’ – you take the good with the bad. Mike was one of a kind; there will never be another Mike Swanson,” Vredenberg said.
Swanson’s tribute was followed by an armed forces salute backed by the area high school band, and a special musical appearance by the children’s choir under the direction of Sarah Kaufenberg.
Special guest Lieutenant Colonel Greg Remus spoke, but first sincerely thanked the crowd for attending the event, and opened his speech with a joke his wife told him he better do to “break the ice.”
Remus spoke about what Memorial Day meant to him saying, “I believe this day gives us another opportunity to remember our deceased veterans. We need to continue to recognize our veterans for the sacrifices that they have made. I would encourage each of you to thank a veteran today.”
After Remus spoke, special musical guest Faith Kern, accompanied by Sarah Kaufenberg, performed “Alone Yet Not Alone.”
The ceremony concluded with Fred Brown again speaking, giving a few brief words on freedom and patriotism in the community as well as giving the closing benediction.
An emotional video provided by Dave ‘Lefty’ Anderson closed the event, with the Gold Star parents exiting via drumroll and the Honor Guard retiring the colors.