Lanesboro Memorial Day message has dual meaning

DR. JAN MEYER/NEWS LEADER Doug Johnson, Glen Jensson and Gary Redalen lead the audience in singing “God Bless America” at the Memorial Day program.

DR. JAN MEYER/NEWS LEADER Beth Vitse plays taps at the outdoor segment of the program, ending the Memorial Day event. Standing next to Beth is her spouse, Ryan.

DR. JAN MEYER/NEWS LEADER Vietnam veteran Mike Mullen was the featured speaker at Monday’s Memorial Day program in Lanesboro.
By : 
Dr. Jan Meyer

More than 150 people ignored the heavy rain to attend the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Lanesboro’s Community Center. The local American Legion Post 40 plans and presents the program, with the Lanesboro High School Jazz Band, leading off with the national anthem.

The featured speaker, Vietnam veteran Mike Mullen, had absolute attention as he talked about Army Sergeant Major Brent Taylor who, in early November of 2018, posted a Facebook message from Afghanistan, where he was currently serving his fourth overseas tour, having done two in Iraq and a previous one in Afghanistan. His message to the country was urging people, in the upcoming election, to “exercise your right to vote, to remember that there is more that unites us as a country than there is to divide us.”

Sergeant Major Taylor did not find out about the outcome of that election, because he was killed the day before, and his body arrived back in the U.S. on Election Day itself. The whole nation was mesmerized by the news story; he had been the current mayor of Ogden, Utah, and left behind a wife and seven children. His wife, just hours after the ceremonial arrival of his body, went on national news with a message, basically saying, “Yes, we grieve, but we do not regret. He chose to serve his country.”

She added his service was a family decision. She reiterated how proud and grateful they were that he and others do so.

Mullen continued on that point, saying, “We all choose to serve.” He added on this 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, in which so many died, it is a good time to remember that political labels mean little to those who are defending freedom. He urged listeners to “Honor all who serve, not just those with the most medals. We all want to honor freedom, country and family, and in each generation, someone will step forward….It is not obligatory: we want to.”

Mullen’s second message to his audience was to honor not only those who serve and have served, but also those who are left behind. “No one can replace (the absent person), but we can offer a shoulder and service in many other small ways . . . We honor their sacrifice by showing we care. Sergeant Major Taylor called us to honor “others and our country.

Mullen paused at the end to mention the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, and Henry M. Guttormson, for whom the local Legion Post is named, adding that Lanesboro native Guttormson was killed in action — the ultimate sacrifice — at the age of 25 in World War I.

He also honored outgoing three-year Post Commander Jim Haugen for his accomplishments during his tenure.

The program emcee was the Post Adjutant Glen Jensson; Post Chaplain Carolyn Storlie did the invocation and Harriet Lawston of the Auxilliary honored Gold Star Mother Opal Gossman. Lawston also did the convocation. The Lanesboro High School Jazz Ensemble presented a medley of service hymns of the military branches, and a trio of Doug Johnson, Glen Jensson and Gary Redalen led the audience in singing “God Bless America.”

While the weather did not disrupt the indoor program, the traditional march down “the Avenue” by the Legion members, Sons of the Legion, Auxiliary, high school band and Scout troops was rained out. However, by the end of the indoor service, the rain had lessened so the usual Legion Honor Guard’s rifle salute, and accompanying taps, happened as impressively as usual.