Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Proud to be an American in Kenyon, Minnesota August 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:31 AM
Flags fly in the Field of Honor at Kenyon Veterans Memorial Park during Rose Fest.

Flags fly in the Field of Honor at Kenyon Veterans Memorial Park during Rose Fest.

A tag marks the flag flown in honor of LTC Kevin Duffy.

A tag marks the flag flown in honor of LTC Kevin Duffy.

Military artillery at Kenyon Veterans Memorial Park.

Military artillery at Kenyon Veterans Memorial Park.

I’ll admit that, as the daughter of a decorated Korean War veteran, I possess a soft place in my heart for Americans like Mike McDonald, Marty Budde, Mark Hegseth and Donald Meese.

I met all of them Sunday afternoon at Kenyon Veterans Memorial Park. Three of the four were gathered at a picnic table in this Minnesota Highway 56 roadside park prior to the closing ceremony for a weekend Field of Honor flag display during the town’s Rose Fest.

Meese came a bit later with his wife, Judy, to photograph the flag honoring their son-in-law, Lt. Colonel Kevin Duffy, a full-time Army man who recently served in Afghanistan.

The temporary flags could be placed in tribute of anyone, not just military people, said McDonald, president of the Kenyon Veterans Color Guard, the organization sponsoring the flag event.

“It’s to show everyone that this is the United States of America,” the Vietnam veteran said, looking toward the rows of 201 flags posted on either side of the highway near the town’s grain elevators. “The best way to do that is with a flag.”

The Field of Honor also raises money for the color guard, which marches in parades, attends veterans’ funerals, presents school programs and is working to build Kenyon’s vets’ park. Dollars from last year’s first-ever Field of Honor, which featured 80 flags, paid for a sign and new flagpole. A donation of $20 per flag is suggested.

The vets’ group hopes to add another military symbol to the artillery already in the park.

You simply have to admire guys like McDonald, who are striving to publicly honor those who have served or who are serving. As a Vietnam vet, the Kenyon man understands the importance of honor. He came home to a mostly ungrateful nation in turmoil over the Vietnam War.

Today he said it feels “awesome” to be appreciated for his service in Vietnam. He served as a crew chief door gunner aboard a Huey helicopter.

His friend and fellow color guard member Mark Hegseth of Kenyon flew an Air Force A-1E airplane in ground support and rescue missions in Vietnam.

Marty Budde, a retired military man and color guard vice president from rural Faribault, was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam era. Donald Meese of Nerstrand served with the Army Reserve for 23 years.

Although I didn’t have time to hear their personal in-depth stories of military service, I heard enough to know that these men deserve to be recognized—for giving of themselves to their country and for now actively working to honor all veterans.

They are striving, said McDonald, to change attitudes so that no other soldier feels unwelcome upon returning home from war, like he and so many others were decades ago.

Donald Meese snaps a photo of the flag flown in honor of his son-in-law, Lt. Col. Kevin Duffy of the U.S. Army.

Donald Meese snaps a photo of the flag flown in honor of his son-in-law, Lt. Col. Kevin Duffy of the U.S. Army.

The official Kenyon Veterans Color Guard flag.

The official Kenyon Veterans Color Guard flag.

Kenyon Veterans Color Guard members Donald Meese, from left to right, Marty Budde, Mike McDonald and Mark Hegseth.

Kenyon Veterans Color Guard members Donald Meese, from left to right, Marty Budde, Mike McDonald and Mark Hegseth.

A plaque in Kenyon Veterans Memorial Park honors Major Benjamin Danielson, whose fighter jet was shot down in Laos in December 1969. He was missing in action for years before a bit of his remains were positively identified. He was laid to rest back home in Kenyon in 2007.

A plaque in Kenyon Veterans Memorial Park honors Major Benjamin Danielson, whose fighter jet was shot down in Laos in December 1969. He was missing in action for years before a bit of his remains were positively identified. He was laid to rest back home in Kenyon in 2007.

To read an interesting collection of military stories from around the country, get a copy of God Answers Prayers—Military Edition, True Stories from People Who Serve and Those Who Love Them, edited by Allison Bottke and published in 2005 by Harvest House Publishers. The book includes “Faith and Hope in a Land of Heartbreak,” a story I wrote about my dad, Korean War veteran Elvern Kletscher of Vesta, Minnesota.

© Copyright 2009 by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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