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Hastings residents will remember, honor those who served the country

A marker dedication is planned for veteran, Sgt. James Akers, who was killed at Gettysburg.

A new cemetery marker for a Hastings man who was killed in the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War will serve as the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend in Hastings. The annual Memorial Day observance is set for Monday, May 27.

The marker dedication for Sgt. James Akers will be held at 6:30 p.m., Friday, May 24, at Oakwood Cemetery (located on Featherstone Drive near General Sieben Drive).

Akers, a Civil War veteran killed on July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg. His remains were returned home in November of that year. Akers, the son of Simeon and Margaret Akers, was born in Hardin County, Ky., in 1837. He came to the Minnesota and Wisconsin territories in 1855, working as a surveyor, river-boat pilot and farmer. In the first election held in 1857 in Diamond Bluff Township, Wis., he was elected as township chairman and clerk. He enlisted in the Minnesota First Regiment April 29, 1861, joining Company H -- fondly remembered as "H" for Hastings. His parents and siblings joined him in early 1857, settling in Dakota County, where they purchased farmland. This farm was located along current Ravenna Trail, between Hastings and Prairie Island. He helped on his family farm, working there until his enlistment.

He may have been 23, but claimed to 24 when he enlisted. The enroller made a mistake and included a "C" in his name and he was recorded as James Acker throughout the war.

Three of James' brothers, Alfred, Gideon and Woodford, also served in Minnesota mounted units. Gideon and Woodford served in the 1st Minnesota Mounted Rangers for its one-year-term of service. Then Gideon and Alfred served in Hatch's Battalion of Independent Cavalry. Their younger brother drowned in Hastings just a month before James was killed at Gettysburg.

Scheduled to participate in the dedication are Stephen Osman, historian and author; members of VFW Post 1220 and American Legion Post 47, both of Hastings; members of VFW Post 9060, Pierce County, Wis., the Dakota County Historical Society, LeDuc Historic Estate staff and members and Kenneth Flies, representing the 150th Anniversary-Minnesota Civil War Task Force. Representatives of the Minnesota First Regiment will participate in the marker dedication. Hastings Mayor Paul Hicks will also attend. Refreshments will be served after the program at the LeDuc Historic Estate, 1629 Vermillion St. The dedication is open to the public.

Memorial Day

The Hastings community will honor those men and women who served the country and did not return when the annual Memorial Day observances are held Monday, May 27.

The Lyle Russell Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1210 and the Nelson Lucking American Legion Post 47 of Hastings, and their auxiliaries, in collaboration with the Beyond the Yellow ribbon Initiative, sponsor the Memorial Day programs at four locations.

The observances begin at 9 a.m. at the Minnesota Veterans Home, Hastings. The observance moves to Roadside Park at 10 a.m. Shorter ceremonies will be held at Soldiers and Sailors Cemetery, West First Street and Nininger Road, and at the Levee Veterans Memorial along the Mississippi River.

Deceased veterans will be remembered in a rifle salute by the VFW firing squad and the VFW Honor Guard buglers will play "Taps" following the rifle volley at each of the observances.

At the Roadside Park observance, there will be the singing of the national anthem, followed by the invocation and welcome by Mayor Paul Hicks. Gold Star mother Mrs. Daniel (Merilee) Carlson) will be honored.

As part of the Roadside Park observance, winners of the VFW Voice of Democracy essay contests will read their essays. The American Legion Boys State representative will be honored.

Commanders and auxiliary presidents of the service organizations will place wreaths at each respective memorial.

People are encouraged to bring lawn chairs to the Roadside Park observance.

On the preceding weekend the American Legion, VFW, and their friends will place more than 1,000 flags on veterans' graves in and around the Hastings area cemeteries.

All observances are open to the community.