Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Faribault: The realities of war revealed in stories June 2, 2021

A member of the color guard at the Memorial Day program in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

EVERY MEMORIAL DAY, my emotions rise, sometimes spilling into tears. This year, 2021, proved no exception.

Folks gather for the Memorial Day program in Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.
WW II vet and Army Air Corps pilot Joseph Skodje, 100, served as grand marshal of Faribault’s Memorial Day parade. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.
The Rev. Greg Ciesluk opens with prayer. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

As I listened to speakers during a Memorial Day program at Faribault’s Central Park, a sense of loss, of sorrow, of grief descended on me. It is the personal stories that always get me.

Awaiting the playing of Taps to honor the war dead in, an always mournful sound. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

When Honored Combat Veteran Donald F. Langer spoke of losing his soldier-buddy John, I thought of my dad losing his soldier-friend Ray during the Korean War. Decades removed from Vietnam and John’s death, Langer’s grief still runs deep. I could hear it in his words.

Members of the honor guard ready to fire their rifles. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

I heard, too, of the challenges he faced while on R & R. He didn’t fit into civilization, Langer said, so he returned early to the jungle rather than continue his respite separated from his fellow soldiers. And when he exited war via a flight out of Saigon, Langer carried with him the trauma of war.

Everyone who served has stories… Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

These are the stories we need to hear. To personalize war. To make it about more than patriotism and fighting for freedom and serving country. Behind every platitude are individuals who loved and were loved. Who were forever changed.

The honor guard waits and listens to speakers. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

Emcee Gordy Kosfeld shared a poignant story pulled from Guidepost magazine about a young soldier killed in Italy. Uncle Bud, who loved his dog, Jiggs. And Maria. In his riveting radio storytelling voice (KDHL), Kosfeld had the audience listening with attentiveness.

He served… Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

While I listened, my thoughts drifted to my dad, recipient of the Purple Heart. He made it out of Korea alive, but not without trauma.

Patriotism in attire and hand on heart. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

Bud was killed in action. John, too. And Dad’s buddy, Ray. So when the honor guard fired their guns and the bugler played Taps and the women laid wreaths representing our nation’s wars and the pastor prayed and we sang patriotic songs and the color guard retired the colors, I thought of the sacrifices made by so many. They are the reason we gather on Memorial Day. To remember. To honor. To consider the ultimate sacrifice of dying for country.

Please check back for one more post from Memorial Day in Faribault. A light-hearted moment that eased the grief I was feeling.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

6 Responses to “From Faribault: The realities of war revealed in stories”

  1. Very touching. You are so right that we need to Hear these stories so war does not become just a statistic or something that “happens to others”. ❤

  2. Sandra Says:

    Thank you for these reviews and images. I have huge fond memories of Memorial Day Parades. (also the Pet Parade that I was in a few times) Our extended family had vets, but Dad and our many German immigrants were huge patriots. The folks married in ’33, totally remember WW2, reminded me of rationing often. The Korean War was my first memory as we got our first tv. The National Memorial Day Concert paid special tribute to the forgotten war this year. My classmates went off to Vietnam. Memorial Day is important…and yes, tearful. And Pledge of Allegiance should be said in schools!

  3. Very touching – makes me feel proud as well as brings tears to my eyes too (the ultimate sacrifice of those who are serving and those that have served). I have my poppy proudly displayed on my purse handle. I still do not know how my grandma did it when five of her sons were actively serving, especially during the Korean War and Vietnam War. I am a member of the American Legion and VFW to support and be part of the community. I like hearing their stories and that they can openly talk about their stories. They have that community and space as well as support and resources. Thanks so much for sharing! Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂


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