(Sentinel photo by Joyce Kaiser)
At services in Le Mars, Akron, Brunsville, Remsen, Oyens, Hinton and Kingsley, World War II veterans were remembered and recognized in conjunction with the dedication of the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.
World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Fred Claussen spoke at the service at the Plymouth County Courthouse in Le Mars.
Claussen, an Akron native and lifelong resident, is a 59-year continuous member of Albert E. Hoschler Post 186 at Akron. He and his wife, Evelyn, moved to Le Mars a year ago.
"I registered for the draft as all males who were over 18 years of age did so," said Claussen of his life. "My number came up and I was inducted into the U.S. Army June 7, 1941."
He trained in California for what turned out to be a four and a half year tour of duty.
"After basic training, I was sent to the Hawaiian Islands, landing there Oct. 9, 1941. Then came the day of infamy, Dec. 7, 1941. We were at war! This changed everything," he said.
He was transferred back to the United States and served in the European Theater before his discharge in October 1945.
"Since the Civil War, Memorial Day has been a time to remember and reflect those who faithfully served in America's Armed Forces and made the ultimate sacrifice. We also must take time as we should everyday, to remember all who are defending America today in the war against terrorism," Claussen told the crowd gathered on the lawn.
"Before the end of World War II, nearly 16 million men and women had entered the United States Armed Forces. They fought courageously and served honorably. More than 400,000 were killed. Our GIs gave everything and asked for nothing in return," he said.
"Today we not only gather here in Le Mars, but all across this great nation of ours to remember and honor our departed comrades," Claussen said. "Let us remember those departed comrades and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. May their souls rest in peace."
Remarks from Bernard Krommendyk, a European Theater POW, were read by American Legion Wasmer Post commander Wayne Thieman. Krommendyk was unable to attend as he is on two-week tour of Europe, commemorating the 60th anniversary of D-Day. He was one of many U.S. servicemen who parachuted into France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
"For me, Memorial Day is the greatest and most meaningful holiday of the year," Krommendyk wrote. "It honors our comrades who served on the military and gave the supreme sacrifice, both on the battlefields and on the homefront during war time."
"We can enjoy the freedom we have today because of these heroes, but freedom is not free," he continued.
The flags of 28 veterans were added to the Avenue of Flags during the ceremonies, presented by family members, friends and American Legion members. They are: John A. Bauerly, James R. Bowers, William "Bill" Boyle, Dorothy M. Bunjes, Leo F. DeForce, Allen J. Dugan, Henry Groetken, Carl O. Hartman III, Richard Helmers, Ronald L. Hinspeter, Floyd Huls, Jerome "Jerry" Konz, Niels Larson, Hilbert Ludwigs, Mark R. Masuen, James Montagne, Meinard "Sam" Orban, AE "Red" Phipps, Carter Pitts, Donald Reistroffer, Fred Riter, Bruce Rolling, Robert Russell, Edward J. Sitzmann, Gordon F. Tentinger, David Thieman, Donald A. Traufler, Thomas H. Weeks.
The ceremony also included the reading of the veterans' names represented by the 940 flags on the lawn, the reading of "Come Visit My Grave" by Jim Rolfes, the reading of Flanders Field Poem and "A Veteran Died Today," ending with the firing squad and taps.