WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     Special — Memorial Day is a day that veterans and their families take time to honor our war dead and veterans who served our country. Some gave all while all gave some. It is a holiday where veteran’s organizations throughout our country sponsor programs in town halls and schools.

    Locally observances were held in area communities including Dovray, Storden, Walnut Grove, Westbrook and several area cemeteries.

    In Walnut Grove the American Legion Post 267 and Auxiliary presented the program at the elementary school at 9:30 a.m. Monday morning.

    The program started with the 5th and 6th grade band performing the American Spirit March under the  direction of Mr. Luke Nelson.    

    Then the American Legion Post and Auxiliary presented the colors, followed by the band performing the National Anthem. Then the audience recited the Pledge of Allegiance  to the Flag.

    Principal Paul Olson introduced the Memorial Day Speaker Pastor Charles Swanson. Swanson is  a graduate of Mankato East High School,  he entered the Army Infantry school for the Minnesota  National Guard. He attended St.  Johns University becoming a chemist. After a few years Swanson attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul. Graduated and was ordained as a pastor in  the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 2007. After serving a four point  parish in the Bowman, North Dakota area, he accepted a call to English Lutheran and St. Olaf Lutheran churches in Walnut Grove. He and his wife Stephanie have two school age girls, Sophia and Sadie.

    Swanson talked about his own basic training when he joined the Army National Guard. He recalls wondering if he could live up to the traditions of those who served before him.

    Like many families he recalled while growing up how Memorial Day was a time for weekend barbecues, camping, campfires, fishing and just relaxing. Since that time Swanson learned the special meaning of Memorial Day.

    He says Memorial Day is a time  for Americans to remember the brave men that died in defense of our country. His father Curlin served and spent a tour in Vietnam – but we were fortunate to have him  return, while  some of his dad’s friends did no return.

    It is for those reasons that we must honor our fallen heroes — and what it cost for them to defend this country.  We can show them our appreciation by honoring those fallen  heroes both men and women who accepted  the call without reservation.

    It also should be a time of reconciliation of the country, there are many things that divide us today. But this day we celebrate in honor of our fallen heroes. It is a time for us to come  together to reconcile our differences, by remembering those who died on the far away battlefields  dating back to the Revolutionary War.

    We should not forget the sacrifices those men and women made  for us. We also see the young people taking up the places of those who served in the past. As we gather and  look at our flag we see the men  and women who sacrificed so much. We honor them today for that great gift to each and every one of us.

    The legacy of Memorial Day and Veterans Day will  continue — this day is expensive. God Bless the U.S.A God Bless America.

    The band then played the America the Beautiful before the retiring of  the colors.

    Outside, war wreaths representing former wars were placed on memorial crosses. Then the legionaires gave a 21 gun salute followed by Taps and Echo by Daniel Kleven and Colton  Carter.

Westbrook Memorial Service

    The Westbrook American Legion and Auxiliary and the Veterans  of Foreign Wars advanced the Colors.

    The high school band performed  the National Anthem, Under the direction of Mrs. Crystal Sonsalla, followed by the invocation by Keith Carey. The audience participated in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Legion Prayer was also read by Keith Carey.

    VFW member Dennis Phelps and Legion member  John Madson read the  roll call of departed veterans. LaVonne Hansen and Anita Phelps placed wreaths on the grave for each war.

    The VFW and Legion members sang  two patriotic songs

    John Madson  then introduced the speaker, Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Wayne Kelm.

    Kelm presented a slide show of photos taken in flight of planes in formation and refueling a B-52 from a KC 135 tanker.

    Kelm talked about becoming a pilot in the Air Force. Kelm took flight training  in a class of 25 students, of those only 18 completed the training to be a T-38 Jet pilot trainer. He said,  “Every day you go to work as an instructor where our students try to kill us. Although, it’s not a bad way to make a living.”

     He says they teach us many different procedures to become  better pilots. When learning to fly in close formation there is about 12 feet between aircraft.  You learn that “trading paint”  was not a good thing while flying at 600 miles per hour.

    His other office was in a B-52 as a pilot. He said it was like going from flying a sports car to flying a warehouse. When doing air to air refueling typically it takes about 15 minutes to get a full load. It was not one  of his favorite things to do.

    He made several missions to the middle east, his final mission was to Dieago Garcia a small island in the Indian Ocean with a naval support base. He also flew combat missions in Afghanistan with over 4011 hours of combat missions.

    Kelm also talked about an organization at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio,  Texas. The organization is called the Freedom Flyers. It Repaitrioted former Vietnam POW pilots to fly again. There is a Hall of Honor with  photos of all the pilots, and a museum which is the smallest museum for POW Pilots. It measures ten by ten feet, the size of the prison  cells in North Vietnam. He closed telling the story of Ed Aterberry one of two POW’s to escape a North Vietnam  Prison.  He was recaptured and  was beaten to death, his partner was also recaptured but survived.

     Keith Carey then read the  meaning of the flag folding ceremony, as John Madson and  Leo Vortherms folded the flag.

    The band then played In Honor of the Fallen by Barry Milner. Keith Carey then gave the benediction followed by the legion and VFW retiring the colors.

    A short service was held at the Westbrook Cemetery with the laying of a wreath at the Veterans Memorial and a 21 gun salute followed by Taps.