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Memorial Day - A time to remember and honor those who died for us

The bright sun shining Monday over Evergreen Cemetery in Brainerd served as a reminder of why Americans honor those who gave their lives to protect our freedoms.

The Memorial Day ceremony began at 8:30 a.m. on the Laurel Street bridge, where a wreath in honor of the veterans lost at sea was tossed into the Mississippi River. A prayer was offered by Chaplin Susan Edwards, followed by the firing of a rifle salute and taps.

The ceremony moved to the Bataan Memorial next to the National Guard Armory in Brainerd. Wreaths were placed by veterans of the Bataan Death March, along with a prayer by Edwards and the rifle salute and taps.

At 10 a.m., the Memorial Day parade began that led to Evergreen Cemetery, where the official program took place under bright sun, temperatures in the 80s and a relative humidity of 48 percent.

The Memorial Day ceremony was organized by the Brainerd Area Memorial Day Committee, which consists of officers and members of area veterans organizations and auxiliaries and other interested persons. The Elks Clubs, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts also volunteered in the ceremony.

At 7 a.m. Monday the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts put up 95 American Flags along the fence line of the cemetery in preparation to the ceremony. Another 140 flags were placed in the cemetery.

The Brainerd High School band provided music, under the direction of Chris Fogderud to start the ceremony in the cemetery and also performed “To The Colors.” Dick Lyscio was the master of ceremonies; Edwards led the invocation; Miss Minnesota Rebecca Yeh led the audience in the National Anthem; and memorial wreaths were placed to honor the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Am Vets, Blue Star Mothers, Marine Corps League and Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson, who was the first speaker, talked about how his 11-year-old granddaughter asked him if he was in World War II. Olson’s granddaughter told him that her teacher from Blaine gave the students an assignment on finding out what wars their relatives served. Olson told his granddaughter that her great grandfather, his father, served in the war as a medic and he shared with the children what their great-grandfather left in his military duffle bag, including a mess kit, a canteen and medical supplies.

Olson thanked his granddaughter’s teacher for having the students learn about family members who may have served in a war so they could learn more about the impact war had on families and to learn more about the cost of freedom.

Olson said he began feeling guilty as he didn’t spend enough time with his own children telling them about the stories and impact the war had on his family.

“The greatest gift is the gift of remembrance,” said Olson.

Brainerd James Wallin, who had been in the military for 35 years, said there are so many who have sacrificed their lives for their country so others could have the freedoms they have today.

“Keep others in our prayers, as we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the freedom that we have today,” Wallin said.

Crow Wing County Commissioner Rosemary Franzen said it is hard for her to describe war as she was unable to fight in one. She said it has to be an experience like no other to have a comrade injured or killed in war.

“It was a heavy cost of freedom,” Franzen said. “So many have made the ultimate sacrifices. ... There is nothing we can do to repay you, but to continue to make this country the greatest country it can be. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

Crow Wing County Veterans Service Officer Bob Nelson has a lot of memories about Memorial Day and what it means as the military is part of his family. Nelson’s father served in World War II.

Nelson read a poem “In Flanders Fields” that read “Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place, and in the sky ... We are the dead; short days ago. We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields.”

“Memorial Day is a day to honor the dead and remember that they gave their lives so others may live,” Nelson said. “I ask you to walk around (the cemetery) and to look at the headstone markers, and look at those who fought for us. Thousands have died and we thank them. ... They were only doing what was asked of them. No more, no less. They did this for the freedoms we have today, so if you see a veteran shake their hands and thank them.”

The young and old were present at the Memorial Day ceremony to honor the fallen.

Zach Lockwood, 13, and Chris Boucher, 12, both of Boy Scout Pack 45, were among the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts groups in attendance.

Lockwood said Memorial Day is a day to remember everyone who sacrificed their lives for the freedom people enjoy today. Boucher said it’s important for people today to remember what the fallen veterans did for their country.

Girl Scouts from Troop 852 in Brainerd also volunteered their time to be at the Memorial Day ceremony. They handed out programs and walked the Gold Star parents to their seats. Gold Star parents are those who lost a child while serving in the military. The Gold Star parents in attendance were Grace Peck and Norman and Shirley Kuhn.

Barb Anderson, Girl Scout leader for Troop 852, said this is the second year in a row where the troop has volunteered their time for the Memorial Day ceremony. Anderson read a story in the Brainerd Dispatch about organizers needing help with the ceremony, otherwise the program would be no longer.

“I read the story and thought this was the perfect event for the girls to help with,” said Anderson. “It is important for the girls to give back to their community.”

Jenna Lee, 12, with Troop 852, said, “I think it’s good to help out the community and remember the veterans who lost their lives for us.”

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at