Veterans celebrated on Memorial Day
BY Sarah smith
As Park Rapids celebrated veterans Monday, Richard Martin was remembering his “less than welcoming” return from the Vietnam War four decades ago.
Americans had turned against that conflict and the soldiers that participated. Vets didn’t get a hero’s parade or any salutations upon their return. In some cases they got booed.
Martin discarded his own uniform and ribbons in the trash so no one would know he’d served. “That is something we must never let happen again,” he said sadly to a packed house at Park Rapids Area High School auditorium.
Somber nods through the crowd agreed.
Martin briefly recounted his own experience delivering ammunition to front line troops and conducting long-range reconnaissance patrols through the treacherous jungle.
Like most Vietnam vets, he relayed little of his personal experience except to say he experienced joy, laughter, sorrow and tears.
He said he hoped Americans would not think of Memorial Day as merely a three-day weekend.
Soldiers fought for the rights “to have backyard bar-be-cues, to go to the shopping mall,” Martin said, mentioning the freedoms Americans enjoy today without much thought.
Memorial Day is “much, much more,” he urged the crowd. “Honor those that gave their lives.”
Young singer Faith Kern gave a musical tribute to Vietnam Vets, set to video.
Kern sang of young men who enlisted or were drafted into doing a job they thought was right, while “silently you cried at night.”
Some Vietnam vets shed tears in the audience.
In Menahga, Greta Wright, pictured, sang, "God Bless America."
Martin urged the audience to “hang an American flag proudly,” visit a cemetery and “thank an active serviceman.”
“To sustain (freedom) somebody must be willing to pay the price for it,” said Chap. Fred Brown. “We are the stewards of freedom passed on to us.”
A children’s choir also brought tears as youngsters under the direction of Sarah Kaufenberg enthusiastically sang a medley of patriotic songs.
A special honor was given to Gold Star Parents and Blue Star Mothers, who paraded into the auditorium to a drumroll. Gold Star Parents Erland and Joyce Alto, Alfred and Erna Kable and Robert and Christina Longfors were feted. A parade of service vets, the band, cub and boy scouts and American Legion Auxiliary members marched to the Red Bridge, where auxiliary president Diane Gustad dropped a wreath into the Fish Hook River.
Then the participants moved to All Veterans Memorial Park in Park Rapids, where more a flag disposal ceremony and moment of silence ended the remembrances.