Chatfield community remembers those who gave ultimate sacrifice during Memorial Day service

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Girl Scout Jaylene Halvorson places a memorial wreath at the front of the stage.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Duane Hermanson was the guest speaker at the Chatfield Memorial Day program held Monday, May 27, in Potter Auditorium.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Devann Harris sings "Traveling Soldier," a Dixie Chicks song about a girl waiting for a soldier sent to Vietnam.

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chatfield High School band instructor Katy Schleusner directs the marching band as they perform new and familiar pieces for the Memorial Day program.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The sky kept falling this past Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, canceling the annual Chatfield Memorial Day parade but not the annual Memorial Day program held in Potter Auditorium.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Boy Scout Troop 43 posted the colors on each corner of the grand stage, marching in step as they proceeded up one side and down the other in neat fashion.

VFW Commander Dale Rodgers welcomed the audience, and Dick Delaney served as master of ceremonies, introducing the Chatfield High School (CHS) band under the direction of Katy Schleusner playing the national anthem.

Chatfield senior Larissa Martin recited the Gettysburg Address – the words of Abraham Lincoln that succinctly summarized the state of the Union during the Civil War – after which Past Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) State Commander Duane Hermanson spoke, reminding the audience that the sacrifices of those who were killed while fighting for justice and peace should not be forgotten. He encouraged that their memories should be preserved to “assure those who died for our country died not in vain,” and “not on our watch” should they ever be taken for granted or forgotten.

Following Hermanson’s speech, the band performed “The Tears of Arizona,” explained by Schleusner as a new piece that the band has rehearsed for the Memorial Day program that tells about the pride of the U.S.S. Arizona, which is sunk off the coast of Hawaii following the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was noted that the ship is visible from above and that it has a slow oil leak that is known as the ship’s “tears” as it holds its place as a memorial to those who died while defending the coast from Japanese bombs.

Girl Scouts placed wreaths in honor of the veterans of each war at the front of the stage, after which Delaney read the rolls of some of those wars and Joe Chase read the rolls of the Civil War – including those who were killed in Minnesota’s Dakota Conflict. Delaney added the names of those killed in action, prisoners of war and missing in action from Vietnam. He read the poem “Freedom is Not Free,” and welcomed Chatfield student Michael Hrstka to recite “In Flanders Field.” Devann Harris sang a solo of The Dixie Chicks’ “Traveling Soldier,” telling the story of a young man bound for Vietnam who meets a girl in a diner before he’s deployed and how they corresponded with one another until he is killed in action.

The band then brought forward its performance of “Inchon,” the piece of music that recalled the battle of Inchon in Korea, complete with the sound of helicopter blades over the sea.

The Rev. Nissa Peterson gave the benediction, asking attendees to consider the words of John 14, “Peace I give to you…do not let your heart be troubled.”

She said, “Let peace infiltrate our hearts and minds, the hearts and minds of our government and our leaders…may we go in peace, each of us living our lives in peace, and seeking out justice and peace.”

The color guard and Boy Scouts then retired the colors and attendees remained in their seats as the side door was propped open for a 21-rifle salute – the shells falling along with the raindrops, with “Taps” played by band members Hrstka and Isaac Rain.

Though a “lost at sea” ceremony was originally slated to remember those who went out as sailors with the Navy and the Merchant Marine, the perpetual deluge outside prevented those observations from taking place at the County Road 2 bridge over the Root River as is customary.

The Memorial Day program was sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Giese-Kelsey Post 6913, and the American Legion Bailey-Kinnear Post 197 of Chatfield. VFW officers included Commander Rodgers, Senior Vice commander Dean Rabe, Junior Vice Commander Larry Vomhof, Adjutant Tom Steinmetz, Quartermaster Josh Steiner, Sergeant-at-Arms Dean Rabe, Chaplain Matt McClellan and First District Commander Tom French.