Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The Stars & Stripes Garage, Heidelberg, Mn. August 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 3:11 PM
Vietnam veteran Joel Kukacka's patriotic garage in the hamlet of Heidelberg, Minnesota.

Vietnam veteran Joel Kukacka's patriotic garage in Heidelberg, several miles off State Highway 19.

Even the shop door proclaims Joel's loyalty to the United States.

Even the shop door proclaims Joel's loyalty to the United States.

Often times, taking the road less traveled leads to an unexpected discovery, like the Stars & Stripes Garage in the hamlet of Heidelberg, just southwest of New Prague along Le Sueur County Highway 30.

Painted red, white and blue and dotted with stars, this garage stops passersby.

Just ask owner Joel Kukacka, who runs this patriotic-looking general and major automotive and farm repair shop with the help of his son, Louie. Joel was closing for the day when I happened by, curious about the eye-catching business.

He’s had other motorists stop to take pictures, Joel says. Just last week a guy from Burnsville photographed the building with the intention of doing a painting.

“So what’s with the patriotic theme?” I ask Joel after shooting a few images.

“I was in Vietnam,” he answers.

No further explanation given.

But I want to hear more. “Did you see action?”

“No. I was behind the enemy, worked as a mechanic,” the mechanic says.

“When?”

“69.”

Joel doesn’t offer more information and I sense that I probably shouldn’t probe.

And I am satisfied with that, with this proud display of patriotism by a Vietnam veteran in rural Minnesota.

Patriotism shines at the Stars & Stripes Garage in rural Le Sueur County.

Patriotism shines at the Stars & Stripes Garage.

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