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Remembering those who gave all

EAST GULL LAKE - Remembering those who gave everything in the service of their nation included those gathered at Cragun's resort this weekend. This year has been a remarkable one for significant anniversaries in the nation's history and a reminde...

EAST GULL LAKE - Remembering those who gave everything in the service of their nation included those gathered at Cragun's resort this weekend.

This year has been a remarkable one for significant anniversaries in the nation's history and a reminder of the reason for the Memorial Day. Both themes were topics of guest speakers Ret. Lt. Col. Paul Cibuzar, Marine Corps, and keynote speaker Capt. Joseph Howe, Minnesota Army National Guard.

"It's important for us to recognize our veterans," said Cibuzar, who noted memorial is something that preserves memories. Cibuzar said he grew up in the shadow of World War II and the Korean War. His father, Sgt. Paul Andrew Cibuzar, fought in France and Germany with the 89th Infantry Division. His uncle was one of two sailors in an entire 200 man company who survived military action in Italy. Another uncle served in a field hospital for Gen. Patton. Another uncle never talked about his Marine experiences in the South Pacific, but other family members said his unit was overrun and he spent 36 hours beneath the bodies of fallen comrades until a counterattack was successful and he was rescued.

Cibuzar remembered building a patio for a new Weber cooker with is brother. He was about 9. After they lit the fire, he turned around and saw his father, 6-feet-6-inches tall, in a fetal position in the garden, shaking violently.

"He said, 'Put out the fire, put out the fire,'" Cibuzar said. The only other words his father said included "concentration camp." After putting out the fire, they brought him inside. Cibuzar said his father slept for nine hours, woke and never mentioned the incident. An example of something more recognizable today - post traumatic stress disorder.

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"He spent nearly a year on the front lines and then liberated and worked cleaning up concentration camps," Cibuzar said. "Towards the end of his life PTSD consumed him."

Other names Cibuzar remembered were those he knew who lost their lives, including Col. Ed Northway; one of the pilots who were unable to recognize the embassy staff in Iran; another one who was lost his life to friendly fire in Vietnam; 1st. Lt. Jake Jacobson, who died in a military airplane crash; and 2nd. Lt. Will Hall who lost his life to an improvised explosive device in 2008 leaving four children younger than 10.

Cibuzar remembered Lt. Col. Ben Palmer, a kind man who made people feel as though they'd known him forever after a single meeting. He was eating lunch in a secure area in Afghanistan and was killed by an Afghan guard. And he said another friend lost his son, Staff Sgt. David Stewart, to an IED in Afghanistan last year.

"Remember there are bad guys that are tenacious at killing you and me," Cibuzar said. "... Remember, our military families need and deserve help."

Cibuzar said he and his wife support Officers' Christian Fellowship, which works to heal military families. Cibuzar thanked Cragun for preserving the memory of those who have served and especially those who have lost their lives serving.

For five years the resort has hosted veterans and military members and their families for the weekend and included a parade, activities and ceremony to mark the middle of the long weekend. Dutch Cragun said he wanted to do something for the veterans and active military service members with the event. Cragun thanked Kathryn Stotka, director of sales at the resort, for shaping and bringing the annual military memorial event together along with resort staff members. And Cragun thanked guests and visitors for giving of their time on a Sunday to attend the ceremony.

"You know we are still at war," Cragun said, noting Cibuzar brought memories to the gathering and the keynote speaker, active company commander of the unit in Brainerd and a man who served in Kuwait, brought a perspective of a current command.

Howe said 2015 is a historic year in the annals of military history.

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"This past April we recognized the 150th anniversary of the ending of the Civil War. At the end of April, we recognized the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and earlier this month we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Yet none of these dates would hold any significance were it not for the men and women who fought and died to preserve the freedoms we cherish today."

Howe recalled Memorial Day began as Decoration Day 150 years ago as people placed flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. More than 26,000 Minnesotans served the in the Civil War to preserve the Union the state recently joined and 600 died in battle and another 1,800 died as a result of injury and disease, Howe said. Now a century and-a-half later, Howe said, "Let us reflect upon the sacrifices of all the men and women who have fallen in service to our country."

May 8, 1945, represented V-E Day or Victory in Europe Day during World War II. Howe said it's estimated by the time the war ended in Europe and the Pacific, more than 50 million people lost their lives, including 400,000 Americans. In Vietnam, nearly 60,000 Americans died. And yet, Howe said, the numbers mean very little until they are broken down into the human element and become real and sobering.

Howe pointed to the sacrifice of Sgt. Arnold Andring who was declared missing in action at age 24 in 1951, during the Korean War. Andring, the oldest of 11 children, was drafted at age 18. He was captured as he was serving on the front lines. He died of malnutrition during captivity. His remains were never recovered until this year. Through DNA testing, Andring was returned to his home in Mahnomen this past March with a funeral with full military honors.

Just two weeks ago in St. Paul, the family of Pfc. Kham See Xiong received his Purple Heart.

Xiong was killed in the mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, which killed 13. Xiong's family, who supported the U.S. military, fled their native Vietnam at the end of the war and they came to Minnesota when Xiong was a small child. Xiong joined the Army in 2008.

Howe asked how is such a pure sacrifice honored, of a young man who waits in a prisoner of war camp for a rescue and release but none is forthcoming or the sacrifice of another young man who wanted to serve his family's chosen nation in its time of need.

"How do I? How do we honor that?" Howe said. "... Let us by dedicating ourselves to never forget their sacrifices. Let us call off their names. Let us visit their gravesites. Let us fly the flag at half mast. For in doing so we demonstrate that they live on in our hearts. For we owe them a debt of gratitude that time does not diminish."

Related Topics: VETERANS
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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