Pawlenty, Klobuchar honor veterans at Fort Snellingby Annie Baxter, Minnesota Public Radio
About 4,500 people flocked to a Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis today, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The cemetery is the resting place of about 150,000 members of the U.S. armed services.
Minneapolis — Generations of war veterans, their families and supporters filled the rows of seats set up in the cemetery, their hands placed solemnly on their hearts as a singer led a round of "The Star Spangled Banner."
Flags flapped in the wind, and several dignitaries took turns honoring veterans and enlisted men and women.
Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty offered brief -- but poetic -- remarks.
"In this place where valor sleeps, we acknowledge our responsibility as Americans to preserve the memory of the fallen," Pawlenty said. "On this Memorial Day, we look out on hallowed grounds and rows of white headstones, and we know that we are in the presence of greatness."
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, currently Minnesota's sole senator, praised the 1,000 Minnesota National Guard members serving with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in Iraq.
"As a testament to their skill and dedication, the Red Bulls have been put in charge of Iraqi security forces for the southern half of Iraq," she said. "That's worth some applause."
Klobuchar, a Democrat, went on to speak about her recent trip to Vietnam with Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam vet and former prisoner of war. Klobuchar lamented how the nation coldly received McCain and other vets after their service. She said that should never happen again.
Vietnam vet Rich Daniels attended the Memorial Day events. He recalled being snubbed upon his return from the war. Daniels was stationed in Vietnam for about a year or, more precisely, "358 days, 17 hours, and 22 minutes," said Daniels.
Daniels said the American public mostly treats vets more warmly now than it did during the Vietnam War, but he sees a certain fickleness.
"When there's a so-called good war going on, then the military is popular," he said. "Otherwise, when you're not needed, they don't care. It might sound bad, but it's true."
Some Korean War vets know what it's like for their service to fall out of mind. Harvey Sell said it's a forgotten war.
"There's probably a lot of reasons, you had so many people who were against it," Sell said.
Sell and his fellow Korean War vet, Norman Norberg, are chagrined to learn of North Korea's test earlier Monday of a nuclear bomb. But Norberg doesn't think any aggressions against the U.S. are likely.
"I think if they ever did something, we'd blow them off the map," Norberg said. "There'd be no second chance. They know it, too."
Norman Norberg and Harvey Sell said they would spend time today thinking about other veterans and their service.
That's where U.S. Air Force cadet George Muumbo said his thoughts are, too. Muumbo, a native of Kenya, said thinking about the sacrifices made by American military forces compels him to meet his goals.
"This day means a lot to me as an up and coming officer," Muumbo said. "It also inspires me, to complete my mission."
Also today, a Memorial Day event was held at Victory Memorial Drive in Minneapolis. The drive is a landscaped boulevard commemorating fallen World War I soldiers from Hennepin County.
- All Things Considered, 05/25/2009, 5:19 p.m.