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Column: Remember our deceased veterans

It seems like my every-other-week column always seems to fall on the week going into Memorial Day weekend.

I thought about this Sunday, coming home from the American Legion Auxiliary Third District, Department of Minnesota convention in New Prague. I'd spent my weekend with my ALA sisters from our area, been elected as next year's second vice president for the Third District, and was still feeling that warm, fuzzy feeling I get whenever I'm around my extended American Legion family.

We'd had an executive committee meeting on Friday. Our convention was mainly on Saturday, along with the election and installation of officers. We ALA members held our own memorial service for our sisters who'd died in the past year.

Sunday, though, is always the culmination with the American Legion members from the Third District. It's a memorial service held to honor our members who have passed away since last May. Our district lost more than 200 veterans in the past year, which was a statistic I was surprised to hear. Farmington and Rosemount both had deceased members read into the roll call, and I said a little prayer for them.

But think about this: The American Legion has 10 districts in Minnesota. The "Thundering Third," as we're called, lost more than 200 members -- just members of the American Legion -- in the past year. If the other nine districts lost as many, which is entirely possible judging from the notices printed each month in The Legionnaire newspaper, that means as many as 2,000 veterans could have passed away in just a year.

That doesn't include any of the men and women who have served our country, and who were not in the American Legion, but passed away in that same time. I wonder what that statistic may be? Certainly more than 2,000, but just how many more is so hard for me to fathom.

Take it one step further, and think about how many veterans and active service men and women have died in the past year nationwide. Think about that, and put it into the perspective of a decade. Then spread that out to cover our nation's entire history.

It becomes almost impossible to comprehend just how many men and women have fought for our freedom. It also becomes pretty humbling.

As I look ahead to this upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the mere knowledge that we've lost somewhere around 2,000 veterans in the past year, just from the American Legion family alone, I find myself beyond grateful for the service all of Minnesota's veterans -- past, present, and future.

Sure, I'll enjoy the three day weekend. The Beau's sister and her family always have a picnic, and we'll likely spend an afternoon there with them. If it's nice enough I might tear up a whole chunk of land along the side of the house and replace the grass with the flower bed I've been meaning to put in that space. We might make our way to Hastings to spend some time with my family, too.

But you can bet, come Monday morning, I'll be in my car on my way back to Farmington for the Memorial Day service at Corinthian Cemetery. It's the least I can do, to honor and pay respect to the men and women who have fought for our freedom, and those who have died defending their country.

I don't expect everyone in Farmington or Rosemount to drop all of their weekend plans just to attend a Memorial Day ceremony. I do, however, ask that you take a minute, sometime over the weekend, just to think about those who have died for our freedom, those who have died defending the freedom of others, and those who have served our country but have now passed away.

After all, it was their sacrifice that gave us the freedom to have those picnics and three-day weekends.

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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