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Sharing the loss, honoring the sacrifices

Memorial Day is next Monday, presenting the perfect opportunity to take a few minutes out of your busy schedules to pay respect where respect is due by commemorating the U.S. men and women who have died in military service.

Nobody does this better than West Fargo VFW Post 7564 and the Ladies Auxiliary who for as many years as I can remember first gather at the VFW Post on Sheyenne Street for a formal flag raising, before the ceremonious march to Elmwood for the special Memorial Day program.

This year will be no exception, with late World War II veteran Bea Haugen, sister of longtime West Fargoan and active VFW Auxiliary member Eleanor Detienne, being honored by the color guard in the formal flag raising ceremony, followed by Major James Olson speaking at the Park site. The services begin at 10:30, with the program at Elmwood at 11 a.m., with everything open to the public.

If you haven't already visited the Veterans Memorial in Maplewood Park on 17th Avenue East, that would serve as a fitting destination point after your stop at Elmwood, to view the history that is etched out there on the granite columns.

The memorial, which contains the names of deceased area veterans from WWI, WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam, anybody missing in action or killed in action, as well as all living lifetime VFW Post members, was appropriately dedicated on Memorial Day a year ago.

Four of the five granite columns already list 1,500 names, with room for approximately 2,500 total.

The memorial was a work in progress, taking almost four years for VFW officials to coordinate and complete through the generosity of several contributing businesses and individuals.

It was well worth the wait, and now an impressive tribute to military in general with the U.S., POW/MIA, and N.D. flags flying high as part of the permanent display - the perfect place to linger, look at the names and take a few minutes to honor the sacrifices of those who made possible the lives we enjoy today.

I remember one VFW official telling me when the names were being gathered to place on the granite that the Post was fortunate not to be including any casualties from the Iraq war. That still remains the case, but there are thousands of families in other communities out there who can't say the same thing and are experiencing a great sense of sadness and loss.

No matter how you spend Memorial Day, whether it be reflecting at Elmwood Park, at the Veterans Memorial or the simple raising of your own flag at home, be sure to keep the memory of the 3,000 plus U.S. serviceman killed since the Iraq war started in your thoughts as well.

It is this sharing of loss, tied to strong family connections, that will serve to keep the significance of Memorial Day in everyone's hearts forever.