I was chosen as the President of the Day, or MC, for Steele County's Memorial Day program this year. It was an honor and a privilege. From the Owatonna People's Press-
OWATONNA — For the first time in 20 years, the Owatonna Memorial Day Celebration didn’t start with a parade.
Instead, it started with rain showers that carried through into the afternoon.
“We’ve had to cancel it before, but it was 20
some years ago when we held it outside at the courthouse,” said Don
Noyce, Owatonna veteran and Memorial Day Committee member. “We’ve been
fairly lucky since then. Until today.”
Dave Thul, 2013 Memorial Day President of the Day
and post commander of the Owatonna Veterans of Foreign Wars, said some
people still lined Elm Avenue under umbrellas and in their vehicles for
“There are people that would’ve stood in the rain
for the parade anyway,” Thul said. “On Monday morning, anyone can be
sleeping in, but so many people come out year after year to support the
program. It is so humbling.”
Despite the rain, Noyce was pleased with the
turnout at the program, which usually follows the parade at 10:30 a.m.
at the Four Seasons Centre in Owatonna.
“It worked out the way I thought it would,” he said.
More than 300 people from the Steele County area
attended the program to honor and remember the veterans who have served
the country, and pay tribute to those whose lives have been lost.
The Rev. Ron Wilson opened the program with an invocation acknowledging the “valued and departed comrades” in the community.
Led in music by the Owatonna High School Band and
in song by the Just Friends chorus, attendees memorialized the service
of veterans and those who gave their lives with hymns and patriotic
ballads like “America the Beautiful,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic,”
“Let There be Peace,” and “Land That We Love.”
Emceed by Thul, this year’s program included a
tribute to the Marshal of the Day Harry Schmidt, a Korean War veteran
who served as a MASH doctor, and others who served in the Army medical
corps as well as the winner of the Patriots Pen Essay and the Voice of
“If it wasn’t for (Schmidt) and his generation,
my generation wouldn’t have had a chance to fight,” Thul said. “Thank
you to the tens of thousands of members of the medical corp.”
Owatonna High School senior Kendra Schroeder was
selected as the 2013 Voice of Democracy speaker. Her speech recognized
the importance of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the
relevance of both today.
Owatonna Christian School eighth grader Jordan
Schmidt was this year’s Patriots Pen Essay winner. His essay reflected
on what he would say to the country’s founding fathers.
“Thank you for giving your life,” Schmidt said. “You are a true gift to America.”
Shirley Pfeifer, who attended the program, said Memorial Day boils down to what each speaker talked about.
“That’s our freedom,” Pfeifer said. “The two young speakers were great. They always do such a wonderful job.”
After the Patriots Pen Contest winner read his
essay, the Memorial Service and tributes began, and Schmidt placed a
wreath on a mock grave to represent all the veterans who have died
within the last year.
Thul read more than 70 names of Steele County veterans who died within the last year.
Dave Pfeifer, a U.S. Navy veteran, said it was “unreal.”
Shirley Pfeifer’s uncle, Ray Warner, was one of
the names called off. Warner was a World War II veteran who served in
the Philippines, she said.
“It’s hard to believe the list of names read off
were all from Steele County within the last year,” said Terry Prokopec, a
program attendee. “We’re paying our respects to those who did serve to
preserve our freedom.”
The Prokopecs have been attending the Memorial Day program for at least 10 years.
“I come mostly because my first husband was a
Vietnam War veteran, so I come to honor him and remember those who have
lost their lives,” said Mary Prokopec of Steele County.
Mary said she enjoys the Memorial Day Celebration in Owatonna because there is a “great feeling of camaraderie and patriotism.”
After the memorial service, the program commenced
with a benediction from the Wilson, the firing squad, Taps (performed
by Berlyn Staska and Dan Brewster) and the retiring of the flags.
Noyce hopes more people found the opportunity to pay their respects to the veterans who have died within the last year.
“Memorial Day is a day to support our veterans
and fulfill the promise that they’ll never be forgotten,” Thul said.
“This arena full of people shows that those lost will never be
forgotten, and neither will that promise.”