Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Memorial Day 2020 observances, abbreviated May 22, 2020

A veteran salutes during the Memorial Day Program at Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


NEARLY EVERY MEMORIAL DAY, Randy and I honor our war dead in the same fashion. We head downtown Faribault to the parade and then go to Central Park to watch the Memorial Day program. Little changes from year to year with American flags waving, men and women in uniform marching, Scouts handing out flags, patriotic music playing, speeches given, wreaths hung by members of the American Legion Auxiliary…


The Rice County, Minnesota, Veterans’ Memorial in Faribault, located on the courthouse lawn.


There’s comfort in the familiarity of tradition.


Memorial pavers surround the monument, like this one honoring a fallen soldier.


KIA, Sgt Donald E. Ponto.


Another loss…


But this year, because of COVID-19, there will be no parade, no ceremony at the Rice County Veterans’ Memorial and no crowd gathered at Central Park. This saddens me. I always look forward to these public ways in which we show respect and gratitude for those who lost their lives in service to country. But I understand. These are unprecedented times and we need to keep each other safe. The Central Park program will go on, but without audience members gathered on lawn chairs. Rather, the ceremony will be broadcast at 10 am over local radio station KDHL, 920 AM.


An overview of the Rice County Veterans’ Memorial.


Eagle and dove details.


Stone slabs honor branches of the military.


My attendance at Memorial Day events traces back to my childhood in rural southwestern Minnesota. My dad, a veteran of the Korean War and a recipient of the Purple Heart, was active in the local American Legion. Every Memorial Day our family attended—and often participated in—the program at the Vesta Community Hall. Several times I read the poem, “In Flanders Fields.” I also sold poppies. Afterward, we piled into the Chevy for the short drive north of town to the cemetery and the gun salute and mournful playing of taps. From early on, the importance of Memorial Day imprinted upon me.


A Civil War monument is part of the Veterans’ Memorial.


I carried that tradition in raising my three children. Each Memorial Day we attended the parade along Central Avenue in Faribault. And sometimes the program in the park. Some day I hope to take my grandchildren downtown to watch flag-carrying veterans, high school bands and Cub Scouts honoring those who died in service to our country. But not this year. Not during a global pandemic.


A story about Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe, published in the July 23, 1953, issue of The Wolbach Messenger.


THIS POST IS DEDICATED to the memory of Cpl. Ray W. Scheibe. Ray, 22, was killed by an exploding mortar on June 2, 1953, in Korea, the day before he was to return home to Nebraska, to his wife and baby daughter. He was my dad’s Army buddy.


Honoring fallen soldiers with a special monument at the Rice County Veterans’ Memorial.


Blessed be Ray’s memory. And blessed be the memories of all those who have given their lives for this country.


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


15 Responses to “Memorial Day 2020 observances, abbreviated”

  1. Ruth Says:

    What an important post today, Audrey. It certainly will be different this year but your photos and words remind us to pause and honor those who have sacrificed for us and our country.

  2. Thank You to those who have served and who are serving our country to keep us safe and secure! To CravesNephew who is currently serving in the Marines. To CravesCousin who is currently serving in the Reserves. I need to put out the flags in the planters today. Happy Memorial Weekend Everyone

  3. Gunny Says:

    All gave some, some gave all. In memory to Army PFC Gordon M. Gunhus (my cousin) who was KIA on Easter Sunday, 1970 (My tour in RVN was 1969-1970, my USAF father’s tour was 1968-1969. Our parents who served in WW II, our children who are serving in strange far away places today and to those who gave so much of themselves in generations past. Thank You seems such weal thanks for all that has been done. Semper Fi.

  4. valeriebollinger Says:

    Your family tradition of the attending the Memorial service and going to the cemetery is nice. And then continuing a tradition with your kids in Faribault.
    It is important to remember those who gave their lives for our freedoms.

  5. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    Audrey – Thank you for those wonderful pictures, I haven’t taken time to stop and view the memorial. Certainly a wonderful addition to that grand building site. A FB follower sent me this: “Only two defining forces have every offered to die for you: Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom. Thank them both today.” I understand the intent, but I know Jesus died for countries without freedoms too. In this era where confusion seems forced on us, I have to trust us all to do right by those that died for freedom, then live on. Wouldn’t hurt to go hug a living vet – well, maybe next year. They’d want it that way. The birds are chirping. Think I’ll go plant what I’ve already bought too much of!

  6. Gunny Says:

    About the 5th picture down, I noted a paver dedicated Private Ryan who was killed near Nashville, TN. While my mother and her ancestors go back within 4 generations to Norway, ,3 to Germany, and 5 to Canada, (then to Ireland & England) on my father’s side, the lineage to Europe is much longer. 7 to 8 generations. My Sons of America Revolution application goes back 7 generations, 6 to my sire in the War of 1812, and a mere 4 or 5 to the War Between the States. I can not turn a corner in my father’s family history and not run into a Confederate.. Confederate General Barksdale being but one. I have a Great Great Grandfather, who along with 4 brothers fought for the South. Their brides were often the sisters of Confederates who had been killed during the war. Family history runs back to colonials who fought in the French and Indian War. During the American Revolution, I had an Aunt captured in Tennessee, by Shawnee Indians and dragged to Fort Detroit! (Present day Michigan). A Frenchman helped her escape and she walked as far back as Illinois before seeking a rest, employment and finally married and settled in. Her brother did finally manage to find her still alive. Any conflict affects us all. My hat is off you those who served, but also to those who were close to those who served to include parents, spouses, siblings and children.

  7. Definitely a different way to observe this year but we are remembering and grateful for those who sacrificed all for this country. Thanks for an inspiring post.

    • I listened to the local Memorial Day service over the radio. And while I was washing dishes, they played the taps. And I cried, thinking of, and missing, my dad, who served in Korea. In the afternoon, Randy and I drove to the Cannon City Cemetery, which typically holds a service under the cedar trees. But not this year due to COVID-19. We paid our respects as we walked the cemetery, pausing at soldiers’ gravestones.

  8. Missy’s Crafty Mess/Missy’s Handarbeid Says:

    Great tradition to carry on. Kids need to observe these events

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