A county takes pride in its veterans; Yellow Medicine County dedicates new memorial
GRANITE FALLS -- Wendell Ryer returned from service in the Korean War to a very quiet homecoming. "It was almost to the point of 'oh, you've been gone,''' said Ryer. It helps explains why the veteran from Granite Falls was among those who volunte...
GRANITE FALLS -- Wendell Ryer returned from service in the Korean War to a very quiet homecoming.
"It was almost to the point of 'oh, you've been gone,''' said Ryer.
It helps explains why the veteran from Granite Falls was among those who volunteered long hours to make possible a veterans' memorial that was dedicated Saturday on the Yellow Medicine County Courthouse grounds in Granite Falls. "I'm proud to have been involved in it,'' said Ryer.
So apparently were hundreds of other people who joined under a sharp blue autumn sky as two monuments bearing the names of 400 veterans from the county were unveiled. They are only the first monuments to be erected here: The county veterans service office hopes to eventually place the names of all the county's veterans -- both living and deceased -- on memorial stones here.
It's all about recognizing the veterans and their families for the sacrifices they've made, said the featured speaker for the dedication, Michael Pugliese, deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.
He said that support for veterans is especially important now, as servicemen and women returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan make the difficult transition to civilian life. Some 3,000 Minnesota combat veterans are expected to return home from service this fall, he told the audience.
"We have not forgotten, we will never forget our veterans of Yellow Medicine County,'' said Michelle Gatz, the county's veterans service officer who helped initiate the project.
The memorial project was launched in May and quickly found support from throughout the county. Donations from organizations and individuals and county funding made it possible to erect five statues at the memorial site.
The statues depict the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines, while a fifth represents all the women who have served in the military. The memorial also features a small granite rock waterfall and landscaping and park benches that make it a quiet place for reflection, according to the organizers.
It was anything but quiet on Saturday, as the Yellow Medicine East High School band led those who gathered for the dedication in patriotic music and a salute to all veterans. During the ceremony, World War II veterans Roland Fiene and Silas Raddatz, both of Wood Lake, retired the American flag from a pole that stood over the courthouse entryway for many years.
Iraq War veterans Gib Christensen and Matt Martin, both of Granite Falls, and Ronald Poslusny of Canby raised the same flag atop a new 40-foot pole with a gold eagle that stands over the monument.
Poslusny was wounded three times by improvised explosive devices while serving in Iraq with Company A of the 151st Field Artillery. He is awaiting a Purple Heart for his bravery.
After the ceremony, he said it meant a lot to him to see that veterans are recognized. "It's nice to see something like this,'' he said, "rather than the protests like the guys in Vietnam had.''
His father, Ed, who snapped photos of his son at the monument, said: "I'm proud of him.''
Fellow Guardsman Christensen said he grew up respecting the flag and appreciating his country. But his service in Iraq, he said, helped make memorials like this one all the more important to him. "It's very nice, respectful to veterans,'' he said.
Korean War veteran Ryer said he has no animosity about the quiet homecoming he received 53 years ago. "I'm just glad to see the recognition for veterans,'' he said.
He likes the idea that motivated the organizers of the memorial: They were concerned that far too often, the sacrifices of veterans are not publicly honored until after their deaths. "I hope to be remembered some place besides having my name on a stone in the cemetery,'' said Ryer.