Sunday, May 24, 2009
Happy Memorial Day!
Let me introduce you to a little bit of small-town Americana that I really love. Last year some locals here in Red Wing got the idea of using Bay Point Park, along the shores of the Mississippi River, as a "Field of Honor" over Memorial Day weekend.
The idea was that anyone who wanted to honor a veteran - living or deceased - could donate $25 and have a flag put up in the park for the weekend, with a tag attached identifying the veteran.
More than 200 people chipped in last year, and it was a wonderful experience to walk through the field. Local volunteers stood guard over the field around the clock, and last year I made two trips: One during the day, and another at night, when the flags are illuminated. I came across the names of a number of people I knew, and it is always humbling to think about the sacrifices so many have made for the cause of freedom.
I think the folks who organized it last year thought this would be a one-time thing, but the people of Red Wing responded so well that they decided to bring it back this year, and the response was even better. More than 300 people donated flags, and it was a thrill to walk through the park again today, listening to the flapping of more than 300 flags, each one representing someone who wore a uniform to help keep this country free and strong.
I know it's nice to have a three-day weekend, and it's great to be on the golf course, or in your boat and it's nice to consider this the start of summer. But believe me, you will find this weekend way more meaningful if you take a moment to thank someone you know who served. My list includes:
Vernon Peterson, uncle, U.S. Army (deceased), who fought in North Africa and Italy;
Tom Kleinman, U.S. Navy (deceased), who, had he lived longer, would have been my father-in-law;
Rudy Boschwitz, my former senator and boss, U.S. Army, 1954-55;
Captain Todd Angstman, U.S. Army, returned from Iraq;
Captain Keith Angstman, U.S. Army, currently serving in Iraq;
Sgt. Sam Azzone, U.S. Marine Corps, currently training for deployment to Afghanistan;
And of course, dear old dad: Ray Droogsma, U.S. Army, 1952-54
And for all those who paid the ultimate price, the poet Laurence Binyon wrote “For the Fallen.”
They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted: They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them.
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.
Enjoy the day.