Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Reflecting at a veterans’ memorial November 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:10 PM
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Rice County Courthouse, Faribault

I DIDN’T ATTEND any Veterans Day ceremonies yesterday, and perhaps I should have. But several days earlier, I paid my own quiet tribute by walking the grounds of the Rice County courthouse where a veterans’ memorial expansion project is underway. For years a lone Civil War statue has stood there honoring those who served.

Today new sidewalks edged by honorary pavers lead to the memorial plaza which will eventually feature that Civil War statue, a torch, bronze eagle, dove, granite columns, flags, benches and gardens. I expect a place for quiet reflection, a place of honor, a place to cry.

Honorary pavers line sidewalks leading to the center of the Rice County veterans' memorial on the courthouse lawn in Faribault.

Veterans’ memorials often move me to tears because they always, always, bring thoughts of my dad, a Korean War veteran. I remember how, months after his 2003 death, my emotions overcame me while viewing the veterans’ memorial in Winona. With grief still gripping my soul, I simply wept.

Such strong emotions did not pervade my thoughts at the site of the new Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault. Yet, words and images triggered memories in a quiet, deeply personal way of honoring those who have served our country.

Three letters, KIA, imprinted upon a paver signify the ultimate sacrifice. Killed in action. I thought of my dad's soldier-buddy, Ray Scheibe, who was blown apart by an incoming shell on the day before he was to leave Korea. My dad never got over this loss and was forever haunted by the horrible image of Ray's death.

Even though I knew the trail of white in the sky came from an airliner, I imagined this to be the smoke of gunfire or of bombs or of shells as I took this image of the Civil War statue in Faribault.

I was coming of age during the Vietnam War. I remember the protests, the anger, the peace signs, all of it...

When I look at the MIA/POW flag, I recall the metal bracelet I wore in high school, the bracelet engraved with the name of a soldier held as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Sadly, I don't remember his name or even know if I still have that bracelet tucked away somewhere in a cardboard box.

When I composed this image, the back of the Civil War statue, I thought about how a soldier must sometimes feel so alone, so vulnerable.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


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