Memorial Day at the Museum III

Large crowd gathers for meaningful remembrances

They’re red. They’re little. They’re made of paper, but the significance of these flowers on Memorial Day in the spring cannot be underestimated.

Johnson-Melary American Legion Post #115 Honor Guard stands at attention prior to the gun salute at the May 29 Memorial Day program. Legion members (l to r): Rocky Schaible, Collin Dunn, Mike Ellefson, Rod Enerson, Chuck Mertz and Dennis Sayler. (Courtesy Photo)

For The Record

Those who attended the Monday, May 29, events and activities for Memorial Day at the Museum,  were greeted at the door by Dakota Buttes board members Ceil Anne Clement and Ron Nelson, and by Connie Hendricks and Jennifer Rickertsen who offered the little red paper poppies to attendees in memoriam to the nation’s military men and women. These bright spots of red could be seen all day among the crowd, on the volunteers working at the events and on the Legion members in uniform, reminding everyone of the ultimate price paid by so many for the freedoms enjoyed by all.

For the third consecutive year, the Johnson-Melary American Legion Post #115 and the Dakota Buttes Historical Society/Museum (DBHS/M) collaborated to have a day-long set of events and activities in memory of fallen American veterans in all branches of the service and in honor of those still here.

Legion member Dennis Sayler welcomed the almost 175 people of all ages who attended the patriotic Legion program on Monday, May 29 at 10:30 am in building two of the Dakota Buttes Museum in southeast Hettinger.  With the advance of the colors by the Legion Color Guard, the Pledge of Allegiance by all and the National Anthem by Holly Wyman, the Memorial Day Service began.  Pastor Duane Coates of United Methodist Church in Hettinger opened with a prayer for “the good work of seeking justice for the oppressed and peace for all [humankind], ” after which the Borderline Singers under the direction of Norman A. Smith, accompanist Jill Sailer, sang the “Armed Forces Musical Salute.” As the hymn of each branch of the US Military Service was sung, the crowd applauded the men and women who had served in that branch.

Guest speaker for the day was Jason Anderson, Scranton, a 21-year veteran who has served in both the Iraqi war and in Afghanistan.  “He has served his country well,” said Bob Lewis, and had “much to offer about his service years around the world.”

All vets were then honored by war service, from World War II to the present. At 95, Jack Rafferty, who served on the USS Ross in the Pacific, was the oldest veteran present.

Janet Schauer, representing the American Legion Auxiliary, placed the wreath of remembrance followed by a musical selection by Holly Wyman.

On a sunny prairie day with cotton clouds overhead, members of the Legion Honor Guard offered the 21-gun salute. Empty shells could be heard bouncing on the concrete. Then, respectful silence, followed by taps.

“We knew again why we were here,” said one attendee.

“It’s an awesome reminder that freedom isn’t free.”

At 11:30 am, a complimentary dinner with potluck desserts was served by DBHS/M board members:  Betty Svihovec, Loren Luckow, Marian Burck, Ada Jean Cornella, Myrna Mertz and Rita Becker. At 12:00 noon, the Borderline Singers shared a program of “Music to Remember” which included World War I songs in addition to favorites, with the third special program, in commemoration of the World War I Centennial, to follow.

This year, the program was on WW I Trench and Chemical Warfare. Museum board member Darin Seamands presented the overview, with background and details of this type of warfare, illustrating his remarks by showing how soldiers made noise on empty shells to warn other trench fellows of impending gas attacks. A WWI gas mask and a handknit army-green WWI sweater vest were also on display. “I had heard about World War I as a boy,” said Bob Lewis. “A couple of our neighbors in the south country were in the war and used to tell us, like Darin did, of how wicked the gas was.”

A Hettinger High School student video project under the direction of IT instructor Don Smith was then shown. Original film footage in the presentation by Kaitlin Jahner, Ben Werre and Jacob Dix brought home some of the horrors of the WWI trenches and conditions.

Conditions during those war years got closer to home as Joanne (Gunderson) Schrupp, Kathleen Dettmann and Janet (Felde) Schauer shared personal remembrances of someone in their family who had served in World War I.  Joanne read from her grandmother’s original journal of how her grandfather had at first been refused enlistment because he was still a citizen of Norway, and then, how he hurried to complete his second application papers so that he could serve. Kathleen told of the WWI grandfather she never knew who was awarded a Purple Heart and died later quite young from complications of heavy shrapnel in the chest.  Janet told of her WWI father who felt his early hair loss may have been the result of exposure to chemical warfare. She shared with the group the large document signed by Woodrow Wilson given to her father in recognition of his service.

In the upbeat group sing-a-long that ended the day-long festivities, Karen Kobilansky on the piano and Carole Rosencrans on the banjo, accompanied the audience with some World War I favorites.