memorial day

Veteran Gerald Deno listens to the memorial address during a Memorial Day service Monday at the American Legion Park in Le Sueur.

John Cross
The Free Press

Many of the people who could have benefited from Capt. Cory Genelin's Memorial Day speech Monday weren¹t at American Legion Park in Le Sueur to hear it.

They were probably doing other things, such as getting some yard work done, buying charcoal briquettes for the afternoon barbecue or camping with friends.

A vast majority of the people at the park Monday morning were older folks, people who already understood the importance of Genelin's message.

Genelin is a war veteran, but he didn¹t talk about the time he spent flying over battlefields in Iraq in 2003. He still serves in the reserves, but he didn¹t mention the fact that he could be called back to active duty at any time.

He wanted to talk about those who have given their lives for their country, including the men whose names are etched into the large Veteran's Memorial that is the highlight of the park.

"I'm trying to adhere to the fact that Memorial Day isn't just for veterans, or just for the people who are serving, like me, today," he explained last week, while he was still preparing his speech. "It¹s specifically for the people who have died in the line of duty.

"The gift they gave, the gift of their lives, wasn¹t given for other service members. It was given for all of us. It should be honored by all of us."

Genelin wanted his audience to understand those heroes and what they stood for, not just remember them. He also asked the people of Le Sueur, the place where he was raised and has returned to raise a family of his own, to find a way to make young people better citizens.

It was a message that Dan Mithun, a Vietnam War veteran, understood. He just wished more parents would have brought their children to the park to hear it.

"You don¹t see a lot of kids here, except for the kids in the band or the Boy Scouts" he said. "When I was a kid growing up in Wells, the whole town turned out for the Memorial Day service. I think it's a lack of respect for what the flag really stands for, what our country stands for.

"I agree with what I heard. We need to teach our kids to honor America. There is no honor these days."

Young people need to hear the names of the people in their town who died while serving their country, Mithun said. They need to hear the bell ring for each name, the sudden and echoing blasts of a gun salute, the gloomy sound of Taps being played on a bugle.

When Genelin began his speech, he said the heroes who died knew the risks. They are required to memorize and understand the six articles of the United States Military Code of Conduct. He closed by reading Article VI, first asking those in the crowd, and those who were not, to think about it Monday, this week and in the future:

"I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and the United States of America."

Memorial Day is often overlooked on the weekend that kicks of summer activities.

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