From Where I Sit

By Pat Spilseth, Columnist

For many of us, it’s a yearly tradition to honor veterans on Memorial Day. Veterans from several wars find their  uniforms they’ve stored in the back of their closets and wear them, once more, as their white gloved hands carry flags and rifles in an annual parade. Aged soldiers give gun salutes to fallen soldiers who died in service to their country. The celebration honors God and our country, home of the brave and the free.

Those of us growing up in the fifties were raised to respect and honor veterans who had served our country that we may remain free. Teachers, pastors and parents taught children to show respect for others. In school we began the day reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Respect for others was expected in the fifties.

Ideas, expectations and traditions have changed through the years.

I still remember a Memorial Day ceremony years ago at the high school in Glenwood where I listened to Teri Anderson Wagner honoring her parents with stories of their serving in the military. Her mom Evie and dad Unc were high school sweethearts who married while they were Marines. The auditorium crowd was spell-bound by the tales of this story teller. Love of the USA was paramount in the lives of her family.

Each year near Memorial Day my husband and I drive to Glenwood, my hometown, to visit the graves of our parents at the Lutheran cemetery. Often we drive to another cemetery near  Starbuck to visit graves of other relatives. Red geraniums at the graves decorate the graveyard. It’s a tradition to arrange for flowers to be placed at the graves honoring the deceased. Flags are placed at the graves of veterans for Memorial Day.

Dave and I wander among the gravestones and markers stopping to recall memories of our Moms and Dads. I can picture in my mind the faces of so many folks when I see their names appearing on the white markers. I remember the Callaghans, Ronnie Barsness, Al and Maureen Fjoslien, Bob Belgium, the Kinneys, Stradtmans. Small town mentors were instrumental in guiding our lives and forming values for many of us.

Back on the lake road, we drive past Peters Sunset Beach Resort and the Hedine cottages, out into the country and views of Minnewaska. At the highway to Starbuck, we turn left and try to recall the way to Immanuel Church cemetery, where my mom’s Barsness family is buried. We found our way through the rolling hills, meandering from one gravel road to another, always heading west. We found the tall red brick church of Immanuel where Mom and Dad were married. Tall trees still border the cemetery and further fields. There lie my grandparents, my special cousin Emery who died so young at 42, several uncles and aunts.

Roots are important. Family and traditions are important. How good it feels to recall the times  shared with parents, cousins, aunts and uncles. I remember the hard work of our parents to provide for us, their friendships, community service and allegiance to the church. Their values continue to guide my life.

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