Memorial Day remembrances held in Hastings
With the temperature hitting 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 veterans, friends and family members walked from Red Wing to Hastings to honor U.S. soldiers who died in their service.
The walk was part of the annual March and Mayhem, organized by U.S. veteran Tom Wright and Kris Hinderscheid.
Wright, who served three years in the Army and four for the Minnesota National Guard, founded the event three years ago to draw renewed attention to Memorial Day.
"I felt like that the meaning had been sort of lost. I've never been in harm's way, but I served with many guys that did end up in harm's way, and unfortunately a few of them didn't come back," he said. "I had a sense of guilt and thought, I could do more."
The 28-mile walk along the Great River Road — similar to the 30-mile marches Wright would do in the Army — seemed like an appropriate way to remember and honor those who have lost their lives in the military, he said.
Markers memorialized soldiers nominated by event participants at each mile.
Stationed throughout the trail, about 30 volunteers supplied water, food and cold wash cloths.
"The big hit were the ice cold washcloths," Wright said. "Those saved us on this march."
For the last two years, a concert has followed the march. Wright said the event gives veterans and others who aren't able to make the lengthy walk a chance to participate.
Florida resident Ruth Stonesifer, whose son Kris served in the same unit as two of the event participants and died in combat in Afghanistan in 2001, flew up to Minnesota for the event and gave the keynote speech. She has served as the president of the American Gold Star Mothers.
Mayor Paul Hicks shared the remarks he made at the ceremony.
"It's been said that a nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten. And that is why we are here at this gathering," Hicks said. "As we remember these American heroes, let us do so with great pride, but measured in grief. Let us do so with gratitude, but measured in humility."
Hastings band the Coxmen performed songs including a rock 'n' roll rendition of the national anthem.
Also on Memorial Day, a flag-raising ceremony was held at the Minnesota Veterans Home, followed by a memorial program at Hastings' Roadside Park. Hicks gave remarks while Richard Hullander presided over observations and retired Lt. Col. Sean Gustafson, a Minnesota native, gave the keynote.
Wright said that in addition to remembering those who have lost their lives in service, he's glad events like his give veterans the chance to share stories with each other.
"I think we're off to a great tradition," Wright said.