Heroes honored in Steele and Rice County
Clad in leather and denim as the sun beat down on them, the crowd gathered at the Steele County Fairgrounds didn’t pay any mind to the heat. They had a more important task at hand. There were fallen brothers and sisters that needed to be honored, and for the next few days, that was their job.
The Traveling Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Memorial, was coming to Fairbault, and the crowd was gathered to provide motorcade escort for the wall as it traveled the last stretch of its journey. The organizers from Fairbault had asked for people to gather at the Steele County fairgrounds to form an escort to the Rice County fairgrounds, where the wall was on display over Labor Day weekend.
The wall, which has traveled all over the country, was created as a means for people, who are unable to travel to D.C., to have a way of paying tribute to the soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.
Before the motorcade escort began, Kirk Mansfield, one of the chairs of bringing the wall to Fairbult, spoke to the crowd about the importance of giving recognition to veterans. Mansfield’s own father was a Vietnam War veteran and had traveled up from Iowa for the occasion. Mansfield described seeing the wall as a “transformative experience” for many veterans and said seeing the wall “is not fun”, but it can be an important step for giving veterans the closure they need.
Mansfield acknowledged that many of the veterans had been through hell, but that made it all the more important for them to help one another. “If you’ve been there, go back and get someone else out. Only you can do that,” Mansfield told the crowd, “If you see someone struggling, in any capacity, get them the resources they need.”
He told the crowd that, in addition to the wall, the exhibit in Fairbault would have displays of Vietnam War photos and military equipment. Two fields of honor were also set up at the grounds, one for those who had died in action in Vietnam, the other for those who have been killed in current conflicts. The fields recognized any soldier from the six surrounding counties.
In addition to the field, there was also a tent set up with records of all those missing in action from Vietnam, who never made it home. The table had a 24/7 standing sentinel for the entire Labor Day weekend.
When Mansfield finished speaking, the motorcade lined up to depart. A wave of cars and motorcycles took off from the fairgrounds as more than a hundred people joined the escort. They passed through the flags of an honor guard as they left leading the trailer that contained the wall.
The wall in itself is an important reminder to the public of those who died defending freedom, but for all that, it is still just a wall, and it can’t help but pale in comparison to the even greater tribute showed by all the people who took time out of their busy lives to remember our fallen heroes.