HONORING THE LEGION
As Jim Wanberg of Owatonna toured the new Legion exhibit at the Steele County History Center, he couldn’t help but think about the service his family has given over the years.
Wanberg served in the U.S. Air Force from 1966 to 1969 during the Vietnam era, though he never went to Vietnam. His father also served in World War II. “It was kind of a family thing,” he says.
On March 12, the Steele County Historical Society revealed its latest exhibit focusing on the American Legion. The exhibit pays tribute to Steele County posts, including Owatonna, Ellendale and Blooming Prairie.
Exhibits director Dan Moeckly said the Legion exhibit will be displayed for at least a year. He acknowledges the exhibit will have “visitor fatigue” and anticipates it will take many people three or four times to come back to fully comprehend everything in the display.
Moeckly said the exhibit features about 12,000 words. “We edited it pretty severely,” he said, noting items that didn’t make it in the display will be posted to the society’s Facebook page. There will be a Legion story featured every week on Facebook for the next 40 weeks, he added.
While looking at the various displays at the history center, Wanberg remembers what it was like for him to serve during the Vietnam conflict. “In 1969, we took off our uniforms at the airport because we didn’t want to be yelled at,” he said. “Now everyone thanks me for my service, which never happened in 1969,” he added.
Serving in the military is a “maturing process,” Wanberg said. “You are responsible for yourself and your buddies,” he noted.
Wanberg credits the historical society for its latest exhibit. “This is a very nice display,” he said. “This history center does things right.”
Blooming Prairie Legion Commander Bruce Kubicek says the center’s exhibit is “really good exposure for us,” especially at a time where many Legion posts are struggling for new members.
The requirements to join the Legion changed as of last July, according to Kubicek. Now anyone who has served only one day of active duty and has been honorably discharged can join the Legion. “We hope to get some new people to serve,” he said.
Kubicek is a latecomer to join the Legion as he joined about five years ago. For Kubicek, he became attracted to the Legion because he wanted to be on the Honor Guard. “I get a tear in my eye every time they play Taps,” he said.
He pointed out that the Legion provides extensive service work throughout the community.
Legion members from around the county posted the colors during a grand opening ceremony on March 12. A roundtable discussion featuring Legion representatives also took place.