Memorial Day tradition in Cold Spring dates back 50 yearsby Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio
Cold Spring, Minn. — In Cold Spring, about 90 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, a color guard, a rifle squad, and local Boy Scouts visited four cemeteries to honor the sacrifices made by soldiers, an annual tradition that's more than 50 years old.
Soldiers and civilians come together for Memorial Day ceremonies in communities across the country. They honor the many thousands of people who died serving the country.
At St. Boniface Cemetery, the remembrance began with an outdoor mass. After the mass, the Cold Spring American Legion and local Boy Scouts held a memorial ceremony.
Every year, the Legion also invites a guest speaker. This year it was Maj. Jeff Howe. Howe recently returned from his second deployment to Iraq. He served with the 34th Infantry Red Bull Division.
"Please include their families in your prayers. Remember them as well as the soldiers, as the family's pain is not once a year, their pain and remembrance is one of a daily occurrence," Howe said. "I know that because as a commander who had a soldier killed in action, I think of him daily, as does his family."
Howe built a memorial to honor that soldier. He also shared this story the first time he spoke in 2006 after returning from his first deployment. Howe tells the crowds that these days more and more people know men and women who have died in the line of duty.
Howe said it's important to remember how much it costs to fight a war. Besides honoring his fallen soldier every day, Howe adds something special to the memorial on the anniversary of his death.
"So it's just my way of contributing and remembering, so I don't forget ... because once we forget, who knows the road we'll go down," Howe said.
This tradition to visit local cemeteries in the Cold Spring area is longstanding. Gene Hesse, the commander of the Cold Spring American Legion, said he remembers participating in these ceremonies as a Boy Scout.
"I don't know exactly when it started but everybody here feels it was probably around World War II," Hesse said.
Some people who attended the Memorial Day services say they think attendance keeps growing because the support of service members is getting stronger. David Engelmier believes that's because more people know guardsmen or soldiers who've served active duty recently.
"I think that having young people involved -- we have a lot of young people involved in active duty now and family members -- they want to do something," Engelmier said. "So they become involved. This year, bigger than last. They're always quite good; even in bad weather."
The Cold Spring American Legion and local Boy Scouts also visited cemeteries in neighboring Rockville, St. Nicholas and Jacobs Prairie.
- All Things Considered, 05/31/2010, 5:14 p.m.