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For many, it's a weekend full of memories

Memorial Day means different things to different people.

While some people are pulling out swimsuits and sunblock, a handful of Farmington's veterans will be polishing their black shoes. While others are out on pontoons or jet skis, the firing squadron will be cleaning their guns.

The upcoming weekend is more than just a long weekend to some of Farmington's residents. To the couple dozen who stay home so they can spend several hours in cemeteries, this is the weekend to say thank you for freedom and to honor those who have fought for it.

"It's to honor the ones who sacrificed their lives and to honor those who fought and are still living," explained VFW Sypal-Lundgren Post 7662 commander Ron Ersfeld. "A veteran is a veteran. Everybody sacrificed something when they left to go to service."

Some veterans lost their families, some lost their lives. Some came home visibly wounded, others came back with scars no one could see. And some, well, their stories still remain to be told.

Ersfeld recalls a time when Memorial Day brought out a large crowd to see the parade that went from the old high school on Fifth Street over to Third Street, then wound its way out to the Corinthian Cemetery. Back in those times, finding veterans to march in the parade was pretty easy.

"We all did it for quite a few years. There was about 40 of us in the Army Reserve back then," he recalled. "One year, we had our whole platoon. It was pretty nice."

These days, the parade route has shortened significantly -- from the back yard of the Farmington American Legion to the Corinthian Cemetery, less than a half-mile -- and the number of veterans who march has decreased, as well. Many of the active VFW or American Legion members who attend the services do not have the energy to walk the distance or carry the flags.

It's something Ersfeld would like to see change.

"We could use any military person out there," he said. "We'd love to have your join us."

The VFW and Legion members do three separate ceremonies over the weekend. Two -- the ones at Farmington Lutheran Cemetery and Castle Rock Cemetery -- are held on Sunday. Monday's Memorial Day ceremony at Corinthian Cemetery is the largest of the observances, usually drawing a couple hundred people.

Participation in the Memorial Day services also brings Ersfeld back in time. On Friday, he and other volunteers will be out at the cemetery, cross-referencing a list of burial plots, and placing grave markers at the resting places of all of Farmington's deceased veterans.

"It really jogs the memory to walk around and see all the old friends out there," he said.

Musical selections for Monday's Memorial Day service will be provided by the Farmington High School Marching Band. Robert and Roger Shirley will lay the wreath in honor of those missing in action. James Deegan will recite "In Flanders Field," and Col. James Lundell will be the speaker.

The service will be led by Ersfeld and Farmington American Legion Post 189 Commander Leonard Weisbrich.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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