By Harold Brutlag
Three of us, Ken Hennen, Charles Stoppelman and myself, took part in the National Remembrance Ceremony at Minnesota’s Veterans’ Cemetery at Camp Ripley, near Little Falls, on Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. This timing coincides with like ceremonies at veterans’ cemeteries across the nation and in other countries as well. Assistance for the wreath-laying is provided by The Minnesota Patriot Guard, many soldiers from Camp Ripley and the general public.
I found out this effort was initiated in 2006 with the placement of only five wreaths. In 2009 the number grew to over 400 and has been growing ever since. On Saturday nearly 5,000 wreaths were placed on the graves of veterans buried there. Stoppelman, a Marine veteran, placed a wreath on his brother, Melvin’s, grave. He was a U.S. Navy veteran. Hennen and I found Kenneth’s brother-in-law, Daniel Schoonover’s grave, and placed a wreath there. He also was a U.S. Navy veteran .
I estimated those in attendance numbered beween 2,500 and 3,000. The program began at the flag assembly area where the national anthem was sung by John Snell; an invocation by Carl Bates; and a welcoming talk by General Lowell Kruse, senior commander at Camp Ripley. Wreaths were presented for each branch of service, seven in all. At the conclusion of the program there was a 21-gun salute and taps wasplayed.
Instructions were given for placing wreaths at each grave and everyone went to their grave area. Many of those attending had a family member or members buried at the Veterans’ Cemetery. It was an emotional time as the names of the registered deceased were called and wreaths were placed on their graves. The wreath-placing part of the program took less than a half-hour and turned the cemetery from a grey and snowy look into an attractive bright landscape with nearly 5,000 green wreaths accented with red bows placed next to the crosses.
The wreath-placing event is conducted nationwide each third Saturday in December. It is a way of remembering veterans for their service and a wonderful way to begin the holidays. Our group remembered two other veterans, Earl Kalli and Robert Peterson, who are buried there; and there may be more from this area.
Next year, Jan. 27, 2018, the wreaths, nearly 5,000 of them, will be removed after a program at 11:00 a.m., so keep that date in mind if you would like to participate.
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I haven’t ventured out on any of the local lakes, but Little Maple, off Hwy. 37, attracted a ton of anglers over the weekend. One lake resident counted 16 units on the lake Saturday. I noticed Lake Mary had some anglers on the south side, but the north side along the township road had a wet streak in the snow aswell as several other wet spots visible from the public access. Rock Lake is also attracting anglers as of last weekend. The north end of Ramsey Lake was open Friday. Cedar Lake has anglers on the south end which is an early hot spot. It also had a several gaggles of geese in an open spot off the Camp Courage shore. I called my brother, Charles, who commented Ottertail Lake is being fished, mostly on the south side. He said Rush Lake also has anglers, but there is an open spot out in the middle of that lake. The Ottertail river runs through both of those lakes which should make fisher-people cautious. This probably is one of those years when the ice thickness can vary on lakes and is something to remember when venturing out. Meanwhile, Ed Pawlenty is enjoying good fishing on Sauk Lake. He caught a 23-inch walleye recently as well as some crappies.
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With this being the last issue of the Messenger before the Christmas holidays, I’m sending my greetings for a Merry Christmas to anyone and everyone who reads these columns each week. It’s been a great 12 months and even if I miss more pheasants than I harvest, I’m looking forward to the final days of the season which ends Dec. 31st.