Members of the Blooming Prairie Honor Guard rifle squad march toward the BP City Cemetery at a special Memorial Day program on May 30. Rifle squad members are: Bruce Kubicek, Steve Wencl, Ken Vermilyea, Clete Glenn, Joe Wacek, Doug Johnson, Ken Trom, Bob Ingvalson, and Kurt Blome. Staff photo by Howard Lestrud
It’s been almost eight years since Judy and I moved south of the Twin Cities and landed near communities where we grew up.
We love the Blooming Prairie area and hope to spend our remaining years here. We all must meet our mortality head-on, and we choose to contribute in any way to make our communities better.
There are many reasons why we moved here: family, a return to our roots, friendliness of a small town and a strong faith community. Like one of our biggest contributors to making the community a better place to live, Craig Kruckeberg, business and industry leader, says: “There’s nothing like a small town.”
Blooming Prairie has five active military organizations: American Legion (Post 52), VFW (Post 878), American Legion Auxiliary, VFW Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion.
This small town has given out 217 Quilts of Valor to deserving area veterans. I would bet there are not many communities, large or small, that meet this total.
Women of the area have sewn, pieced and quilted quilts that are given to our veterans. On two occasions, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, the Quilt of Valor Foundation distributes the quilt.
Chris Butler was the founder of the Quilt of Valor group in Blooming Prairie.
The Quilts of Valor Foundation began as a dream of founder Catherine Roberts. Her son Nat was deployed in Iraq. Roberts tells the story of a young man sitting on the side of his bed in the middle of the night in combat and showing despair. Her next image was seeing her son wrapped in a quilt. His demeanor changed from despair to one of hope and wellbeing.
The first Quilt of Valor was awarded in November 2003 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to a young soldier from Minnesota who had lost a leg in Iraq.
From Catherine Robert’s home in Seaford, Del., the Quilts of Valor movement spread across the nation and beyond through the power of word-of-mouth and the Internet.
From almost the day we arrived in Blooming Prairie, we were touched by the strength of the military veteran community.
Blooming Prairie is alive and well, being an active veterans community.
Blooming Prairie loves its veterans. Just dial back to Monday, May 30 when Memorial Day was observed, again in enviable fashion. An impressive program began with coffee and donuts for the veterans at the BP Servicemen’s Club.
Veterans and their auxiliaries then marched to the Blooming Prairie City Cemetery for a formal program. Local pastor, the Rev. Mike Walarius of First Lutheran Church, gave an inspirational talk, thanking veterans for their service.
The Blooming Prairie High School band under the direction of Ross Reishus, made one of its most impressive appearances, delivering the National Anthem and performing TAPS/ECHO in splendid style.
The capper of the day began shortly after noon when a formal program was kicked off by a welcome from Joyce Johns, one of the most active VFW Auxiliary presidents in the state.
She then introduced Auxiliary member Bev Hoveland to recite the dinner prayer. Voice of Democracy and Patriotic art contest winners were introduced by Diane Nelson. Voice winner Molly Robbins, a sophomore delivered a stirring call to end the divide currently crippling the country.
Tom Peterson, chair of the BP Veterans Memorial Committee, then took the microphone We saw him, eight years ago, outlining a plan to raise $250,000 to build a memorial. Truthfully, I thought this goal was unattainable. Five years later, the $250,000 goal was met and now the total raised has eclipsed $350,000.
“I’m so appreciative of what the community has done,” said Peterson. He challenged attendees to guess how many pavers are on the Veterans Memorial wall. The magic number is 530 and still climbing. This memorial is one of the nicest in the state and maybe in the country.
Visitors pay powerful homage to this community effort.
Our veterans of the Blooming Prairie community are highly respected. Veterans participate in programs like talking to third graders about flag etiquette. Auxiliary member Marilyn Witzel is very adept at educating the third graders about the American flag and about the Pledge of Allegiance. She calls on local American Legion (Post 52) and VFW (Post 878) members and their auxilaries to help her spread the patriotic fever running rampant in Blooming Prairie.
I am very proud to be a member of the Blooming Prairie Honor Guard and also proud to have my name on the BP Veterans wall near my father-in-law, the late Dale Mowers.
This is a community where veterans have made a difference in teaching people how to respect those who have served. Take time to tell a veteran: “Thank you for your service!”