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Remember our heroes, families this Memorial Day

By Dean Markuson, Hastings

As we prepare for this Memorial Day on Monday, May 28, let us be mindful of the reason why we set aside a day to honor all heroes who have gone before us.

We honor the memory of our American heroes and their families for the strength and the courage of their life's story. We honor what mattered most: They are remembered because of their decision to serve, protect and giving all that they had. Each precious soul traveled a journey not because they despised or were fearful of what was before them but because they truly loved what was left behind them. For the ultimate sacrifice in what mattered most, we remember and give honor and thanks this Memorial Day.

As in the past, this year's community observances are sponsored by Lyle Russell Veterans of Foreign Wars 1210, Nelson Lucking American Legion Post 47 and their auxiliaries. Observances will begin at 9 a.m. with a flag ceremony at the Minnesota Veterans Home, 1200 E. 18th St., followed by a 10 a.m. program at Roadside Park.

Approximately 20 minutes after the Roadside Park program two additional short ceremonies will follow in sequence at the Soldiers and Sailors Cemetery on West First Street and Ninninger Road and at the Veterans Memorial Levee, Hastings River Walk on Ramsey and First streets.

Richard Hullander will preside over the observations. Our national anthem will be song by Gordon Gathright, an invocation will be provided by Pastor Paris Pasch and a community welcome will be given by Mayor Paul J. Hicks followed by this year's keynote speaker. Additionally, special guests will be the VFW Voice of Democracy, Patriot Pe and the American Legion Boys State participants. A moment of silence will then be observed as a tribute to Gold Star mothers. commanders and auxiliary presidents of the veteran service organizations will lay wreaths at all memorials, throughout the various observances. Taps will be performed at the end of each ceremony.

Keynote

This year's keynote speaker will be retired Lt. Col. Sean Gustafson. He is a life member of Lyle Russell VFW Post 1210 in Hastings. He was born in Minneapolis and graduated from Blaine High School. He enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard as a combat engineer in 1988 and received a commission from Army ROTC at the University of Minnesota in 1994.

His key assignments included: engineer platoon leader, executive officer, support platoon leader and a company commander. He has also served as a budget officer, deputy comptroller, and planning analyst in the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., State force-management integration officer and the inspector general for the Minnesota National Guard.

Gustafson's numerous overseas deployments include: Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Germany and Norway. He also provided critical military assistance during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Among his many military awards and decorations are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

During the weekend prior to Memorial Day, our national flag and bronze star markers will be placed on over 1,000 graves of our departed veterans along with the Ladies Auxiliary markers for their sisters in area cemeteries.

All observances and events are open to the public with a special invitation to all past and present service members, veterans and their families. It is recommended that lawn chairs be brought to the Roadside Park.

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