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Commentary: Remember those who have died for freedom

Memorial Day Weekend is the official start of summer. The majority across west central Minnesota will head for the lake or a family gathering on the first three-day weekend of 2010.

However, come Monday, many citizens in west central Minnesota will remember the true purpose of Memorial Day.

Family and friends will gather in school auditoriums and local cemeteries to remember those who have died in the service of our country.

There are many who will spend Monday at the lake fishing, swimming or water skiing. Others will be on the road traveling back to west central Minnesota from their holiday.

In America, we each have the freedom to choose how we spend Memorial Day. It is this basic freedom of choice that America was built upon.

It is this basic freedom that many Americans have served and died to protect.

The most recent native of west central Minnesota to die while serving his country was Army Sgt. Kurt E. Kruize. He was killed April 4 in a noncombat accident in Iraq.

To Sgt. Kruize, his wife, children and family, we thank you for your service. His sacrifice in service helps protect the freedoms that we all enjoy.

If you look back in your family, you likely will find many who have served their country to protect our freedoms. You may even find some who have perish during their service.

Military service is often a family affair. As a son of a World War II veteran, I have developed an interest in family history as well as veterans.

I have found ancestors and relatives who have served from the first Pilgrim-Indian skirmish to the Revolutionary War, from the Civil War to World War I, from World War II to Vietnam and in the current American campaigns.

One young cousin, Lee Vogel, served his first tour with the U.S. Army in the initial Iraqi Freedom campaign, jumping with the 173rd Airborne Division into northern Iraq. Then several years later, he was recalled to serve a second tour with a Army Reserve unit. His father had served in the U.S. Army in Germany during the early 1970s.

Another young cousin, Brent Bendson, is in the midst of his first tour with the U.S. Army in Iraq. His father had served in the U.S. Army in Germany during the early 1970s.

One common ancestor of these two cousins and mine is my great-great grandfather George Frederick Matthews, an immigrant born in Canada. He immigrated to northeast Iowa and eventually to central Minnesota.

While in Iowa, he enlisted in the 32nd Iowa Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. During his three years of service, he fought for the Union Army at the Battle of Pleasant Hill on April 9, 1864, in northwest Louisiana.

Serving in the same battlewith the 35th Iowa Infantry Regiment was my paternal great-great uncle Peter Parson. He was killed in action at the Battle of Pleasant Hill. His father had immigrated from Sweden in 1853 so his two sons would not have to serve in the Swedish Army.

My point in boring you with some of my family history is to simply point out that if you look you will likely find relatives who are veterans and maybe even someone who may have died in service.

So on Memorial Day spend a brief moment remembering those in your family or community who have served and died. And thank them for your freedom this weekend to fish, travel or just lay around home.

It is the least we can do.

Kelly Boldan

Kelly Boldan has been the editor of the West Central Tribune of Willmar, since joining the newspaper in October 2001. He has previously worked as the editor at the Bemidji Pioneer, also part of Forum Communications Co., and other daily newspapers, online Web sites, and weekly agriculture newspapers in Wisconsin, Texas and Minnesota. You can follow via Twitter at @KellyBoldanWCT or read about the Tribune's newsroom blog at: or the Tribune's blog at:

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