Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Memorial Day: Greater love has no man (or woman)… May 25, 2012

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A soldier statue at the Northfield Area Veterans Memorial at Riverside Lions Park in Northfield.

WAR. It is easy to distance ourselves, to forget. Out of sight, out of mind.

But when war becomes personal—when a close loved one is serving his/her country, then the perspective changes. War weaves into lives with threads of fear and uncertainty, with distraction and unease, with life lived always on the cusp of “when the soldier returns home.”

I’ve never lived that life in the present. But I have experienced it in the past, in the afterward of war. My father fought on the front line during the Korean War. Battle forever changed him. How could it not? If you killed someone close enough to see the whites of their eyes, how would you feel? Even if you understood the choice, kill or be killed?

My father, Elvern Kletscher, left, with two of his soldier buddies in Korea.

My dad lived with the demons of war—the nightmares, the flashbacks of buddies blown apart on the battlefield, the memories of hunger and cold and the digging into foxholes and a sniper picking off members of his platoon and mortar rounds winging toward him.

There is no glory in war or in violent death on the battlefield.

My dad carried home a July 31, 1953, memorial service bulletin from Sucham-dong, Korea. In the right column is listed the name of his fallen buddy, Raymond W. Scheibe.

Sonny Nealon, Ray’s best friend in high school, sent me this photo he took of his friend Ray’s gravestone. Ray was killed by a mortar round on June 2, 1953, the day before he was to leave Korea and return home to his wife and six-week-old daughter in Wollbach, Nebraska. My dad witnessed his buddy’s death.

On this Memorial Day weekend, let us remember, not war, but the men and women who served their country. Remember them as individuals—as sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles…

Honor them. Respect them. Thank them for giving of themselves to preserve and protect our freedom.

Long-time Cannon City resident Bob respectfully removes his cowboy hat during the playing of taps at the 2011 Memorial Day service at the Cannon City Cemetery. If you want to experience a simple and moving program in a rural cemetery, attend this one at 2 p.m. Monday at Cannon City (near Faribault).

An in-ground marker honors my father, Elvern Kletscher, a Korean War veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart, for wounds he suffered at Heartbreak Ridge in Korea.

And if they are no longer living, like my dad, honor them by visiting their grave sites or a veterans’ memorial or by attending a Memorial Day service or parade. That is the very least we can do to express our gratitude.

An eagle at the new Veterans Memorial Park in Morristown. The memorial will be dedicated at 3 p.m. Saturday.

TO READ A STORY I wrote about my Dad’s service in Korea, click here. The story was published by Harvest House Publishers in 2005 in the book, God Answers Prayers: Military Edition, edited by Allison Bottke.

HOW WILL YOU HONOR veterans this Memorial Day?

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling