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Remembering the fallen

Ceremony was smaller, but local veterans still mark Memorial Day

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856 Honor Guard prepare to fire a rifle salute Monday morning during the Memorial Day ceremony at the VFW post at Fifth Avenue South and 29th Street.

The veterans of Webster County were not going to let the COVID-19 pandemic stop them from honoring their brothers and sisters in arms who have passed away, especially those who died in battle.

So on Monday morning, the members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856 Honor Guard assembled near their post’s flagpole at the corner of Fifth Avenue South and 29th Street for a short ceremony that included reading the names of the local veterans who have died since last year’s Memorial Day observance. The American flag was raised and lowered to half-staff, a rifle salute was fired and “Taps” was played.

The shorter ceremony took the place of the large one traditionally held at Veterans Memorial Park north of Fort Dodge by Badger Lake.

The need for social distancing and restrictions on large group gatherings necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 made that ceremony impossible.

In some previous years, bad weather forced the entire ceremony to be relocated to the auditorium of St. Edmond High School, but Monday marked the first time that a scaled-down version of the service had to be held, according to Rich Lennon, an Army veteran who is a member of the VFW and the Webster County Veterans Affairs Commission.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Rich Lennon, an Army veteran and member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856, reads the names of the 72 veterans from Webster County who died since Memorial Day 2019 during Monday’s Memorial Day ceremony at the VFW post.

Lennon read the names of the 72 Webster County veterans who died since the last Memorial Day. The list included 26 Vietnam War veterans, 24 Korean War veterans, 15 World War II veterans, six peacetime veterans and one veteran of Operation Desert Storm.

Among those who pointed M-1 rifles toward the sky to fire the salute were two Korean War-era veterans who are both 88 years old. Jerry Auten served as a platoon sergeant in the Army’s Chemical Corps. Chuck Baedke also served in the Army.

“I like the bunch here,” Auten said after the ceremony. “This is a good group of men. We have a lot of fun.”

“It’s a good thing to do,” Baedke added.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Navy veteran Jim Purkapile Jr. plays “Taps” during Monday morning’s Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856 in Fort Dodge.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1856 Honor Guard stand at attention before firing a rifle salute Monday morning during the Memorial Day ceremony.

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