Big Kandi East holiday observance will remember fallen service members

An annual holiday observance on Big Kandiyohi Lake will feature a patriotic display on the water as well as an opportunity to tour the Minnesota Fallen Heroes Memorial on Saturday afternoon.

Rick Clark and Kathy Miller walk among the plaques remembering the 104 fallen service members with Minnesota ties whose stories are told as part of the Minnesota Fallen Heroes Memorial. It is located at the resort at the Kandiyohi County Park on the east side of Big Kandiyohi Lake, where an observance of the country's birthday will take place beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 2.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune
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LAKE LILLIAN — Some of Kathy Miller’s favorite memories as a parent were made at the Kandiyohi County park on the east side of Big Kandiyohi Lake.

It’s where her family from Bird Island escaped the summer heat, and where her son, Kyle, loved to play pranks on his sisters, she explained.

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This Saturday afternoon, it’s also where the stories of Kyle Miller and 103 other fallen service members with strong Minnesota ties will be remembered.

The Minnesota Fallen Heroes Memorial has been erected near the resort at Big Kandiyohi Lake County Park East. The memorial features 104 mounted plaques. Each holds a photo and a brief story about a member of the nation's armed forces. Each has made the ultimate sacrifice for their country since Sept. 11, 2001.

It is being featured as part of the traditional celebration of the nation’s birthday hosted on the lake by the Tim Orth Memorial Foundation.


A pontoon boat holding a 40-foot American flag and playing patriotic music, along with a helicopter flyover, are part of the “Fun in the Sun” gathering to be held at the sandbar near the resort. The music starts at 2 p.m. with a 3 p.m. tribute.

“By telling their stories, their memories will not be forgotten,” said Rick Clark of New London. His son, Ryane, is among the service members remembered as part of the memorial.

Clark and Miller were busy at the park earlier this week preparing the Minnesota Fallen Heroes Memorial. The memorial is featured each year at Ryane Clark Memorial Park along the Glacial Lakes State Trail in New London during the week preceding and following Memorial Day.

The nation remembers its fallen service members in many ways, but the Fallen Heroes Memorial is one that Clark said he appreciates the most. “It’s more personable,” he said. Instead of just a name on the wall, there is a photo and story accompanying the name of each of the fallen heroes, he explained.

A serviceman's dog tag dangles from the plaque remembering Kyle Miller. His family had previously found it placed on his gravesite.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

Kathy Miller marked the 16th anniversary of Kyle’s death on June 29. He died at age 19 when an improvised explosive device detonated under his Humvee as he rode in a convoy in Mosul, Iraq. He was serving with the 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery Regiment, Minnesota Army National Guard.

Miller said her son had a dream that he would die by bleeding out over Iraq, and told it to his chaplain before the fateful convoy run. He refused the chaplain’s offer to remove him from the convoy duty, telling the chaplain: “‘I couldn’t live if somebody else died in my place,’” his mother said.

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She was accompanied by Jesse Lund of New Ulm at her son’s graveside on June 29. Lund, now retired from the military, was seated next to Kyle Miller in the Humvee on that convoy. Lund has been awarded a Purple Heart.

After the explosion, Kyle Miller was loaded into a Blackhawk helicopter to be transported for medical care. He died in the chopper while flying over the Iraqi countryside, exactly as he had dreamed would happen, said his mother.


Ryane Clark died at age 22 of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit in Shekhabad, Afghanistan. He was serving with the 18th Airborne Division, 27th Combat Engineer Battalion, 20th Combat Engineer Brigade, 57th Sapper Company.

Each of the 104 plaques in the Minnesota Fallen Heroes Memorial tells the story of a fallen service member, and includes both an American flag and an "Honor and Remember" flag.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

His parents, Rick and Tracy Clark, have made it a priority in their lives to honor the memories of all the fallen troops since their son’s death. Rick Clark said it originally was their grandson’s idea of placing plaques along the Glacial Lakes Trail to remember the fallen that led to the development of the Minnesota Fallen Heroes Memorial.

The Tim Orth Memorial Foundation has made a salute to fallen service members a part of the July Fourth weekend celebration on Big Kandiyohi Lake for eight or more years now. This is the second year that the Fallen Heroes Memorial will be featured as part of the observance.

A pontoon boat holding a 40-foot American flag will again be part of the observance of the country's birthday near the county park resort on the east side of Big Kandiyohi Lake. The event begins at 2 p.m. with a 3 p.m. tribute on Saturday, July 2.

Chad Kluver, who along with his wife, Dayna, manage the county park, initially suggested that the Minnesota Fallen Heroes Memorial be made part of the observance. Kluver is a friend of Rick Clark and served alongside him in the New London Fire Department.

Bill Neubauer of the Tim Orth Memorial Foundation said the holiday celebration on Big Kandiyohi Lake probably attracted 50 or so people in its first year, and has been growing ever since. He can only guess, but said it’s possible that upward of 1,000 people took part in the event last year.

He is hoping for a large crowd this year as well.

Rick Clark can only hope that many of those who attend the observance will take the time to stroll down the Fallen Heroes Memorial and view the plaques telling the stories. “We can’t forget about them,” he said.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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