Former Army nurse shares insights on Memorial Day during Lanesboro program

Members of the Lanesboro senior class are shown at the Navy Pier in Chicago during the class trip. Claire Pieper and Janell Boyum presented a slideshow of some of the highlights from the trip during Lanesboro’s Memorial Day Program.
By : 
Dr. Jan Meyer
News Leader

The featured speaker at Lanesboro’s annual Memorial Day ceremony well deserved the long, standing ovation she received. Marge Fuller, a nurse and veteran of the U.S. Army, served during the Vietnam War, and has always had a special recognition of and appreciation for commemorating Memorial Day. For her, the day has long been poignant.

Fuller pointed out that Americans have a tendency to forget, or at least rarely think about why they have freedom. On this holiday, it is important to honor those who cannot be here because of what they did for all in the past: they gave their lives.

Fuller was four years old when, for the first time in her life, she saw her mother crying. When she asked why, her mom told her that a favorite uncle had been killed in the war.

Fuller said she remembered him very fondly; she and her sister had known him well and had sat in his lap many times, singing songs.

She also noted, earlier that Memorial Day morning this year, she had stood in silence at the Root Prairie Lutheran Church cemetery to honor two veterans and members of Root Prairie. Both had died in France during World War I.

Fuller recounted the history of Memorial Day. It is a national holiday that evolved from individuals decorating graves on their own, to a more formal ritual called Decoration Day. In 1968, the U.S. Congress formally named it Memorial Day and, in 1971, made it a national holiday.

Many people see it as just a three-day weekend meant for relaxation, food and fun. In fact, Fuller cited a recent poll that concluded only 28 percent of the public knows what Memorial Day is!

Most Americans have not personally been affected by losing someone who made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom; over 1.3 million veterans have died as a result of war.

Being a female veteran, Fuller is also aware that most people also don’t realize that there were women serving in Vietnam. However, eight women of the military forces were killed there; all eight were nurses. She was a nurse at a base hospital where, she said, “We received the wounded and dying as they were evacuated.” She participated firsthand in the desperate efforts to save them.

Because Americans all owe a debt to those who have fought, were injured, and/or died for freedom, Fuller posed a question: how can we best honor those who have allowed us that freedom?

She said that first, anyone who has served under our flag has the duty and responsibility to teach and provide examples of respect for that flag. One aspect of that is on Memorial Day, the flag is to be flown at half-mast until noon to honor those who died. Then it is to be raised to full height to honor the living. All are encouraged to pray for those who are serving, and their families.

Fuller asked the veterans and all Americans to reach out: show honor and respect, listen to their concerns, and advocate for their needs.

She quoted former President Bill Clinton who said, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

She also quoted the well-known poem by Lt. Colonel John McCrae, written in 1915. He wrote it just after having buried his close friend who had been killed in a battle. Most of us are familiar with “Flanders Field,” always associated with the ongoing American Legion practice of selling and wearing poppies.

Fuller closed with a request. Many are not aware of the National Remembrance Past 2000 Declaration: at three p.m. each Memorial Day, everyone is asked to pause one minute to observe and honor those who have died for us.

“At that precise moment, trains slow, games stop, and speakers pause. Please, let us remember to do that also,” she said.

The standing ovation that followed was long, in appreciation for her important and moving message.

Also on the program was the Lanesboro High School Jazz Band, which accompanied singing of the National Anthem and also a rendition of “America.”

Chaplains Carolyn Storlie of the Legion and Harriet Lawstuen of the Auxiliary provided the invocation and convocation, respectively.

A day-by-day overview of the Lanesboro senior class trip to Washington, D.C., and points in between was presented by graduating seniors Claire Pieper and Janell Boyum. They stressed thanks to the community for its support in making that trip possible.

The local Boy and Girl Scout troops decorated white crosses on the boulevard, and the American Legion’s Honor Guard performed its rifle salute to end the ceremony.