From little ones to great-grandparents in a standing-room-only crowd, the first-ever “Memorial Day at the Museum” collaboration between Hettinger’s American Legion Johnson-Melary Post #115 and the Dakota Buttes Historical Society/Museum (DBHS/M) left an indelible mark.
Surrounded by 25 American flags and 24 large, vintage World War I posters in building two of the museum in addition to museum vehicles and displays, new and long-standing community members gathered on Monday, May 25, 2015, to pay tribute to the many who have served in our country’s military and to the many who have died in defense of our freedoms
“The setting was fitting,” said Magnus Maier, “so appropriate for bringing people together. It reminded us of our past and of our future.” Members of the American Legion Post began the day-long remembrances and festivities with their traditional Memorial Day Service at 10:00 am led by Post Commander Jay Skaarvold. After the Presentation of Colors by Vice Commander John Jahner and Staff Sergeant Rochelle “Rocky” Hiatt, the group joined in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, led by Holly Wyman and Amanda Reimers.Post Chaplain and Hettinger mayor Richard Wyman opened with prayer, after which the Borderline Singers directed by Norman Smith sang an Armed Forces medley. As the various songs or hymns of the military branches were sung, former service members stood to rousing applause from the crowd. “We had a good representation of the various branches,” says Skaarvold.
Pastor Paul Lint of the United Methodist Church in Hettinger gave the Memorial Day address siting Old Testament scripture in his presentation. Holly and Amanda provided three musical selections throughout the service. In honor of all veterans, a wreath was laid by Janet Schauer.
Near the end of the service, the east wall was opened to reveal the gently falling rain, and the Legion Honor Guard, who has served together in this capacity for twenty-five years, marched out to stand at attention for the 21 gun salute. The solemnity of the situation was hard to miss. The guns went off. Empty shells bounced on the cold concrete. A baby cried. Then silence. And in the silence, the sound of Taps through the quiet rain calling listeners to remember the sacrifice of so many. The service closed with prayer and the retiring of the colors.
Over 150 stayed for the complimentary dinner and an extensive potluck dessert bar served by Dakota Buttes Historical Society/Museum board members and community volunteers. After dinner, the Borderline Singers entertained the crowd with patriotic songs, spirituals, and gospel music. Festivities continued in the afternoon with a presentation by Leonard Bjerklie on vintage World War I posters. An avid amateur collector, Bjerklie provided background on the purpose of the posters and the effects of their messages, encouraging audience discussion and remembrances of personal and family connections to wartime. One of his favorites, the largest, a Third Liberty Loan poster, depicts shadowed soldiers in battle before a fiery background, with the words, “To Make the World A Decent Place to Live in.” Decent. Not perfect. Perfect is for heaven, but decent, we can do. “It was a day to remember,” said one participant. “So many things to think about.”
“The day’s events brought us together as a community, in shared remembrances of what so many have gone through to defend the freedoms we take too lightly,” said another. “We hope they do this again next year.”
Both the Legion and the DBHS/M thank all who helped in so many ways to make the day’s events and activities possible.