Locals observe Memorial Day

ABOVE: Members of the Lee C Prentice American Legion Post 36 and VFW Post 1222 lead a parade, which included the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Fairmont High School March Band, down Winnebago Avenue in Fairmont during a parade on Monday morning. The group started at Veterans Park and ended at the Martin County Veterans Memorial for a Memorial Day program.

FAIRMONT– The Martin County Veterans Memorial in Fairmont was a busy place over the long holiday weekend as both a dedication service and program took place at the site, located on Winnebago Avenue. Several other special events for Memorial Day took pace in Fairmont and around Martin County over the weekend.

Beginning Saturday morning, volunteers from the community, including members of the American Legion, VFW and Boy Scouts, met at Lakeside Cemetery in Fairmont to place American flags on more than 1,000 graves belonging to veterans. This has been a tradition for many years which honors Martin County locals who had served.

Late Saturday morning, a dedication service took place at the newly completed Martin County Veterans Memorial. The project had taken over seven years to complete and was done by a team of dedicated volunteers.

One of the long-time committee members, Terry Anderson, greeted those gathered on Saturday morning. The ceremony opened with members of the Fairmont High School Band who played the songs from each branch of the military. Following a prayer by Chaplain Leroy Diekman, Anderson introduced the guest speaker, Bill Albracht.

A native of Rock Island, Illinois, but current resident of Iowa, Albracht joined the military when he was 19 years old and spent his commissioned career in the U.S. Army Special Forces, commonly called the Green Beret. By age 21 he was the youngest Green Beret Captain in Vietnam.

Albracht is the recipient of three Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts and five Bronze Stars. Anderson said that Albracht is one of the highest decorated veterans of the Vietnam war.

Later in life Albracht became a special agent of the United States Secret Service and over 25 years he protected six presidents and their families.

In 2015, he published his book, “Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate,” and in his speech on Saturday he detailed some of his experiences from 1969 in Vietnam.

In opening his speech, Albracht told the crowd that he and his wife, Mary, travel all over the country to do public speaking events at different monuments. He indicated that they were both blown away with Martin County’s memorial.

“What an incredibly beautiful monument this is… This is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. I’m very, very impressed,” Albracht said.

After Albracht’s speech concluded, Anderson recognized fellow committee member, Chuck Mixson, who served as general contractor on the project and was instrumental in executing the plans that the committee came up with for the memorial.

On Saturday morning, Memorial Day, events started at Veterans Park in Fairmont with a flag raising by the Sons of American Legion. A parade then took off down North Prairie Avenue to Winnebago Avenue and ended at the Martin County Veterans Memorial. Those in the parade included members of the American Legion Post 36, VFW Post 1222, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Fairmont High School Marching Band.

This year’s Memorial Day speaker was Fairmont native, newly retired Colonel Rhonda McCulley.

“I served a total of 35 years in the army to include the Minnesota National Guard, Army Reserve and Active Guard Reserve. I retired in August of 2022,” McCulley said.

Now McCulley is a member of the DAV, American Legion Post 36 and VFW Post 1222.

“Today we pay our respects to over 1.3 million Americans who have died… ranging from an estimated high of 750,000 during the Civil War to an estimate of 2,200 to date in Afghanistan and Iraq,” McCulley said.

She shared some about the history of Memorial Day, which was originally called Decoration Day as families gathered to decorate the graves of those they had lost in war.

McCulley spoke more about the importance of recognizing those who have served and who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Our eyes are upon them as we remember the sacrifices America’s children, siblings, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents made for this country and the freedom we enjoy today because of that,” she said.

Finally, McCulley asked those present to not forget that there are still women and men fighting for humanity and freedom for their country.

“Let’s put aside all of the politics and the media and fill our hearts with love and support for these women and men still in harms way and pay tribute to those who do not make it home,” McCulley said.


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