Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Faribault’s newest mural reflects love, diversity June 16, 2021

“LOVE FOR ALL” created by Jordyn Brennan. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

THE POWER OF VISUAL ART can’t be underestimated. It heals. Uplifts. Infuses joy. Creates a sense of peace. Brings people together. And so much more.

The ASL symbol for “v” and the peace symbol. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

In Faribault, “LOVE FOR ALL,” a just-finished mural designed and painted by Minneapolis artist Jordyn Brennan, shows the positive power of art in a way that reflects my southern Minnesota community. Yet, the mural’s universal theme of love appeals to everyone.

Jordyn Brennan signed her “LOVE FOR ALL” mural. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I love this 85-foot by 35-foot mural which sprawls across the side of a building (and next to a city-owned parking lot) at the corner of First Avenue NW and Third Street NW in the heart of downtown Faribault. The City of Faribault commissioned Brennan to create the public art. It will be celebrated this week during Faribault Heritage Days with a ceremony at 3:30 pm Thursday, June 17, at the mural site. Guest speakers include city officials, representatives from the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and Blind and Faribault Main Street, and the artist.

The setting sun shines on the northwest corner of the mural. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

When I say I love this mural, I should explain, right? I love the vivid hues defining this art. To look at “LOVE FOR ALL” simply makes me happy. And who doesn’t need to feel happy after these past difficult 14 months-plus of living in a pandemic?

LOVE in assorted colors and languages. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

But beyond that basic appreciation, I value the message of an inclusive Faribault. Mine is a diverse community. Diverse in culture and ethnicity. Diverse, too, in that deaf and blind students come here from all over Minnesota to attend the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and Blind. Some of their families live here. A global student population also attends Shattuck-St. Mary’s School, an historic private boarding and day school on Faribault’s east side.

The three dots below the L are L in Braille. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

The artist took those facets of Faribault and incorporated them into her artwork. You’ll see that in the hands communicating love in American Sign Language with the Braille spelling below. The hands are painted in varied skin tones.

Mums, peonies and clematis. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

The rare Dwarf Trout Lily. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

Faribault’s noted flowers. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

And then, above those hands, flowers bloom. Not just any flowers, but mums, peonies, clematis and the Dwarf Trout Lily, all reflective of Faribault’s rich floral history. Read the backstory on that in my initial post about the mural by clicking here.

Painted concrete blocks distance vehicles from the mural. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I feel incredibly grateful to live in a community which values art, including outdoor public art. Many historic-themed murals grace our downtown as do murals on the alley-side of The Upper East Side (213 Central Avenue) and the Second Street Pocket Garden.

The letter L in ASL. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

As a creative and a member of this diverse place I’ve called home for 39 years, I celebrate this newest piece of art. I hope it sparks conversations, creates a strong sense of community and positivity, and reminds all of us that art is powerful. And so is love.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Now what to do about our dirt yard June 15, 2021

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Last week Tuesday, trenching for a new water line. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

LIVING IN A FISH BOWL, translation along an arterial street through Faribault, means our property is exposed to anyone who passes by. We try to keep our yard looking nice with the lawn mowed, weed growth curbed and flowerbeds tended. I’ve received many compliments on our flowers, especially.

Two sections of sidewalk were removed to access the water connection, leaving part of our front yard and boulevard dug up. The sidewalk has since been replaced. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

But things look a lot different a week out from a major excavation of our property to replace the broken/leaking/corroded water pipe into our house. Our north side yard, a portion of our front yard and sections of the boulevard now showcase dead grass and dirt. It’s a mess. I don’t have any other words.

Our dirt yard. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

I look across the spacious hard-packed dirt parking lot of a lawn and see this: work and money filtering into the earth, adding to the estimated $5,000 expense of replacing that water line.

The heavy excavator packed the soil rock hard. MN Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

This past weekend Randy and I stood on our lawn destroyed by digging, by the treads of the excavator and by piles of dirt and considered our options—seed or sod. We measured and debated and discussed…and then decided to wait. Whichever option we choose, this is not a good time to restart a lawn due to the heat of summer and the current drought. A KNOW YOUR WATERING SCHEDULE notice included with our water bill on Monday reaffirmed that delay. Under current rules, we can water only three days a week, although exceptions can be made for new sod or seed. Yeah, we’ll just wait.

I don’t feel good about waiting as I like to be a good neighbor. Yet, there are other issues in our neighborhood that have been ongoing and reflect poorly on our neighborhood and remain unresolved. It’s frustrating.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), ours is also a neighborhood where people cannot afford lawn care services. Springtime brings a bountiful crop of dandelions. Creeping Charlie creeps. Pristine yards are not a priority. But my neighbors keep their lawns mowed, so we’re good.

Once we’re ready to begin this project, we’ll need to till, rake and level the dirt. As Randy pounded the tines of a garden rake into the soil on Saturday, he suggested miners and pick axes. Yes, the ground is that hard—rock hard. But, hey, at least there’s a new indestructible non-metal water line buried deep below that ground. And we have water. And the hydrangea were spared. And the old pipe didn’t burst to the point of water gushing into, and flooding, our entire basement. And we were home when this happened…

TELL ME: If you have any suggestions for our yard, I’m listening.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A strong message from a man who died of COVID-19 June 11, 2021

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Robert Tersteeg. Image from KLGR website.

HIS LAST NAME, Tersteeg, grabbed my attention as I scrolled through the local funeral announcements on the KLGR radio website. I occasionally check the site since I grew up near Redwood Falls.

Back when I lived in this region of southwestern Minnesota, I associated the surname Tersteeg with a grocery store in this Redwood County community. My mom shopped there and my siblings and I sometimes accompanied her.

But the obituary was for Robert Tersteeg, 46, of Minot, North Dakota, and a native of Bird Island. Not someone from my home county, but from neighboring Renville County. Still, I read the obituary given Robert’s young age and familiar name.

He died on June 3 at the University of Minnesota Hospital “after a fierce battle with COVID-19.”

Now that could be the end of the story. But Rob’s family—or more accurately Rob—wanted more to be shared about this “vicious virus.” The part that humanizes COVID-19, that reveals the regrets of a man who died from the virus:

Rob’s final wish was that his journey with COVID might save even just one more loving husband, son, father, uncle, friend. Rob regretted not being vaccinated and, immediately upon hospitalization, made Amy (his wife) promise to vaccinate the kids (Nikolai, Olivia, Kaylie).

Saturday morning those who loved Rob will gather for his funeral at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bird Island. He is not just another number in the statistics of COVID deaths. He was a family man who loved and was loved. And now he is gone, too soon, leaving one final wish—a desire to save lives with his message to “get vaccinated.”

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NOTE: If you are anti-vaccine, please do not comment on this post. I won’t publish your comment on this, my personal blog. I feel grateful to Rob’s family for publicly sharing his final wish/message in a desire to save lives.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Cabin memories, May 2021 June 10, 2021

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Isabelle by the beach. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

SHE RACED BACK AND FORTH along the beach, arms outstretched.

“I’m flying,” she said. “To the moon and into the pink sky.”

My heart brimmed with infinite love as I watched, the moon a pale orb in a sunset sky tinged with streaks of pink. On the far earth below, my 5-year-old granddaughter ran, her imagination flying.

This singular scene defined a recent stay at a family member’s guest lake cabin in the central Minnesota lakes region. For Randy and me, it’s all about enjoying time with those we love most. Connecting. Building memories and bonds that we hope will last a life-time.

Shortly after that stay, Isabelle mailed a picture she’d drawn. It included a rainbow and characters from Frozen inside a pink shape. I thought it was the pink sky of Horseshoe Lake. She clarified that it was simply a pink path. But in my eyes, I see the pink sky.

Horseshoe Lake. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

Memories of days at the lake with our eldest daughter, our son-in-law and our two grandchildren continue to bring me joy. This stay I recruited Izzy to dry dishes while I washed. I also taught her to make s’mores. She counted and cracked graham crackers, then broke Hershey bars to fit. I expect she will assist me again next time we’re at the cabin.

We all sat around the campfire, Randy and Amber roasting marshmallows for s’mores. Sticky faces and fingers added to the memories.

One evening we shared bear stories, starting with Marc’s experience from a childhood camping trip. I added mine. And then Amber brought humor into the mix with her version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Randy tossed in bits about Smokey the Bear and the Hamm’s beer bear. At least the bear tales didn’t scare the grandkids.

A trail winds through Mission Park near the cabin. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

But masses of dragonflies bothered Izzy. Our cabin stay coincided with dragonflies and mayflies invading like a biblical plague. Isaac just walked right through them and didn’t notice when I plucked several dragonflies off him. Yellow jackpine pollen also clouded the air. Because of that, I kept my Canon 20-D mostly tucked inside my camera bag.

The lake temp at the time of our late May visit was still too cold for swimming. So we waded only. Randy fished, hooking a few fish too small to keep. Two warm and sunny days allowed for sunning on the beach for the adults and playing for the kids. Izzy opened Sand Pie Bakery on the afternoon her parents left for a brief jaunt into town. Oh, what fun to order an assortment of fruit pies crafted by Izzy and her brother.

Isaac and I grew closer as we interacted. He now clearly calls me Grandma in the strong voice of a 2 ½-year-old. He also learned to love sliding after we went to a playground in town. I felt exhausted just watching him run up steps, slide and repeat.

Izzy plays with figurines one morning at the cabin. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

All of these family moments I hold precious. Time on the beach. Time inside the cabin—dining together, doing dishes, playing “school” with the kids. Time outside the cabin on nature walks—gathering treasures of stones, shells, pine cones. Watching loons near the dock. There’s nothing quite like viewing the natural world through the eyes of a child. Time outside the local ice cream shop, eating our treats as the afternoon sun and strong wind dripped ice cream onto our hands and the ground.

I cherish these memories. Every. Single. One. Some day perhaps my grown grandchildren will sit around a campfire and reminisce about cabin stays with Grandma and Grandpa. Stories of mayflies and dragonflies, of ice cream and sand pies, and of pink streaking the sky over Horseshoe Lake.

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TO MY BROTHER-IN-LAW Jon and to my sister-in-law Rosie, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for opening your guest lake cabin to extended family. We feel incredibly blessed by your generosity, by our time at the lake and by the family moments we are sharing and the memories we are building.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Flea market finds from art to crafts & more June 8, 2021

An overview of vendors at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Swap Meet & Flea Market on Memorial Day weekend. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo May 2021.

I’VE REACHED THAT STAGE in life where I don’t need more stuff (although I would like an updated kitchen). But I’m talking about all the miscellaneous that fills our homes. Not necessarily necessary, but stuff that we like, whether art, antiques, collectibles or whatever.

A beautiful mirrored gazing ball offered by a crafter. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

I’ll always appreciate those extras which personalize our houses and outdoor spaces, which make a place a home.

The event also included a live auction. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

And I’ll always appreciate swap meets and flea markets, a good source for unusual finds. Flea markets, after a year’s hiatus due to COVID-19, are back in my area of southern Minnesota. And recently I attended my second of the season, this one hosted by Rice County Steam & Gas Engines, Inc. in rural Dundas.

My favorite “character” at this year’s flea market. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

I delight in walking among vendors on this spacious acreage. I enjoy the people-watching and the array of merchandise.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.
A tractor raffle. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

And I welcome spotting a tractor or two, which takes me back to the farm.

Love this fish art by Ron Hammond Artworks of Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

Darlene Wondra of G & D Sales in Montgomery did this handstitched dish towel embroidery. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

Beautiful rag rugs crafted by Lito Xydous Hufford of CA2 BY LITOUS. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

Often, I pause to chat with vendors, including those who sell crafts or art.

Discovering art among flea market merchandise. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

“Snake woman,” found at the booth of Daniel Bell. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

I also search for art in the used merchandise available for purchase. As a creative, I view the world through an artful lens.

Among the unusual merchandise: wigs for sale. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

The unusual, the oddities, the unique draw my focus.

And then there’s the food, this time mini donuts, my long-time fair food favorite. These were especially good. Warm. Sugary. And not at all greasy.

Some of vendor Daniel Bell’s offerings. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

There’s so much to enjoy about flea markets, even if I’m only looking and not buying. And this year, especially, it feels exceptionally good to be out and about. Meandering. Reminiscing over merchandise. Admiring creativity. Simply appreciating life and being among people again.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Without water June 7, 2021

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Our house, where digging begins tomorrow. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo July 2020.

WE LIVE IN AN OLD HOUSE. Eighty-one years old, according to a real estate listing from 1984, the year we bought our Faribault home. I don’t think that date is accurate. I expect this house was built in the 1920s. Whatever, it doesn’t matter.

What matters now is that we are facing a monumental expense after the city water line from the street into our basement began leaking. We awoke Monday morning to water running across our basement laundry room floor. Not good.

We could have replaced the pipe some 30 years ago when the street past our house was completely redone. But, like most homeowners, the additional street assessment was enough of an expenditure. So we opted not to update the water line.

Now here we are, with a rotten old pipe, temporarily without water and facing an estimated bill of $5,000-plus. I am thankful for money in savings.

Still, it’s an expense we’d rather not have as we continue to pay $1,868/month for health insurance and cost of living expenses continue to rise with no wage increase to compensate. Sigh. And my dreams of updating our 1960s vintage kitchen seem even more distant now.

I’m trying to maintain a positive attitude. This could have happened when we were out of town. This could have happened in winter, making the entire process more difficult. And this is fixable.

Mike, whom I’ve know since he was a child, is leading the project. I feel good about that with someone I trust in charge. Excavation begins Tuesday morning. Mike assures water service by the end of the day. In the meantime, the next door neighbor has kindly agreed to let us run a garden hose from his house to ours.

I’m also grateful for Al, service manager of Faribo Plumbing & Heating, who showed up mid-morning Monday to assess the situation. “This doesn’t look good,” he said. I may have sworn and appeared on the verge of crying because he apologized for delivering such bad news. I assured Al he was not to blame. Stuff happens when you own a house, right? But he understood my distress and was exceptionally kind and understanding in a way that speaks great customer service.

To live in a community where neighbors help neighbors, whether personally or professionally, is truly a gift.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Promoting community pride & more in Faribault

Signage atop the Message Board defines its purpose. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

GRATITUDE. PRIDE. POSSIBILITIES. Those topics theme a new opportunity for locals and others to voice their thoughts on the positives in my community via a public Message Board.

The portable board is currently stationed along the Second Avenue side of Faribault’s Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

The Faribault Foundation, which aims to promote and enhance the quality of life for the greater Faribault area, recently developed and then crafted a portable public board from wood and fencing and stationed it along Second Avenue NW in Central Park.

Central Park is the backdrop for the Message Board. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

I love this concept of inviting people to ponder, and then post, their Faribault pride, gratitude and hopes for the future of our southern Minnesota city. Too often we hear the complaints, the negatives. This emphasis on the good qualities and the possibilities is much-needed. And appreciated.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.
A container on the side of the board holds the tags and a Sharpie. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.
Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

So what are people writing on the colorful tags wired onto the fence? On the Saturday afternoon I stopped to photograph the Message Board and then leave my thoughts, I counted 23 comments. Among the positives in Faribault—history, River Bend Nature Center, murals, historic buildings, diversity and more.

The Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior sits right across the street from Central Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.
Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.
Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

As I aimed my camera, I looked across the street toward the historic Cathedral of Our Merciful Savior. In the other direction, I noted the historic Bandshell, where our community gathers on Thursday summer evenings for free concerts in the park. On the side and back of that bandshell are two historic-themed murals. Although I didn’t grow up here, I appreciate Faribault’s rich history and the beautiful old buildings that grace our downtown and other parts of the city.

An iris blooms in a Central Park garden. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.
A lovely garden bordered by hosta. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

Then I meandered through the park, admiring the flowerbeds tended by Faribault Gardeners Reaching Out With Service (GROWS). That reminded me just how much I appreciate the natural beauty of Faribault. And also how grateful I am to the Faribault Farmers’ Market vendors who set up here on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the growing season.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

Just as many of those vendors grow produce to feed the body, so this new Message Board can grow positivity to feed the spirit. I hope my community embraces this Faribault Foundation project. When we shift our focus to that which is good, to hopes and dreams and gratitude, then the possibilities for this place we call (or called) home are endless.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

FYI: The Message Board will be moved to different locations throughout Faribault for greater accessibility and exposure.

TELL ME: Have you seen a similar project? Nearby Northfield has a Gratitude Tree at the public library. I recently featured that in a post.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Latest mural blooms in downtown Faribault June 4, 2021

“LOVE FOR ALL” mural photographed on May 29, 2021. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo.

ART BLOOMS ON A MASSIVE white canvas, brightening a street corner in the heart of downtown Faribault with flowers in vibrant hues.

It’s an in-progress floral delight created by Jordyn Brennan. The Faribault City Council selected the Minneapolis-based visual artist to paint the 85 x 35-foot instagrammable mural on a blank wall next to a parking lot on the corner of First Avenue NW and Third Street NW.

A big space to fill. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

A week ago I photographed the project, which differs from the many historically-themed murals scattered throughout the downtown. This one, while also incorporating history, is more universal.

Yet, Brennan thought local when designing this “LOVE FOR ALL” mural. She’s incorporating the word LOVE—spelled in American sign language, braille and text. Faribault is home to the Minnesota State Academies for the Deaf and Blind. Skin tones on the signing hands will also vary, celebrating our community’s diversity.

The flowers, too, hold significance, according to Brennan’s Facebook page. Yellow mums trace back to Lehman Gardens, founded here in 1931 and nationally-recognized for its mums. The mum gardens drew thousands of visitors. The mum business continues today as Mums of Minnesota owned by Faribault Growers, Inc.

The peonies painted into the mural honor the long ago Brand Peony Farm, no longer in existence. The nationally-renowned peony grower/developer earned Faribault the title of “Peony Capital of the World.” The community celebrated with an annual peony festival and parade, and brides stored peonies in caves along the river. In many Faribault residential neighborhoods you’ll see peonies bushes, currently in bloom.

Brennan also painted another Faribault famous flower, the clematis, in to her mural. Donahue’s Greenhouse, just blocks from my home, grows one of the largest selections of clematis in the country.

Finally, the rare, endangered Dwarf Trout Lily also earned a spot in this floral garden. The mini lily grows in only three places in the world—in Rice, Steele and Goodhue counties—and can be found locally at River Bend Nature Center.

To the left in this image, you can see one of the architecturally beautiful historic buildings that define downtown Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo May 2021.

I love how this young Minneapolis artist put so much thought into designing a vibrant mural that is universally appealing yet reflective of Faribault. I expect this oversized public art piece will provide the backdrop for many a fun photo opp. For visitors and locals alike. Maybe even for brides clutching peony bouquets.

FYI: Jordyn Brennan, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Studio Arts, has been working hard on the mural with a goal of completing it by mid-June, just in time for Faribault’s Heritage Days celebration. She’s painted more since I took these photos. I will do a follow-up post when the mural is done. This talented young artist is also pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. She’s completed other flower and nature-themed murals. Be sure to visit her website.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Wrapped in Old Glory June 3, 2021

Near the end of the Memorial Day Program at Faribault’s Central Park, veterans prepare for retiring of the colors. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

PRECISE. DISCIPLINED. PATRIOTIC.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

Whenever I’ve witnessed anything military-related, those words fit. Service men and women, from my observations, are well-trained in proper protocol, team work and respect. Once instilled, those strengths remain, even decades after active military duty.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

There’s something comforting about the military rituals of Memorial Day. The gun salute by the Honor Guard. The playing of Taps. The advancement and retirement of the colors by the Color Guard. All happened during Faribault’s Memorial Day observance.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

But even the best practiced traditions sometimes go awry. I saw that happen late Monday morning as a member of the Color Guard removed the Minnesota state and American flags from their place of honor in front of the Central Park Bandshell.

Tangled flags… Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

The wind caught the flags, wrapping the veteran in red-white-and-blue. I marveled at his discipline. I would have fought with the fabric, attempting to untangle myself. But he didn’t. He simply walked with the American flag covering his face and torso.

Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned from that scene. The veteran’s actions exhibited trust and an adherence to his military training. He continued as called to duty. Focused. Determined.

Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 2021.

When he completed his mission and turned toward the crowd, I observed a broad smile. Old Glory draped across his left forearm. A touching reminder of freedom.

© Copyright 2021 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