NEW ULM - New Ulm residents joined with the rest of the nation Monday in coming together to honor the courage and sacrifice of U.S. veterans on Memorial Day.
The day's events began with a parade down German Street before moving to the Soliders' Rest section of the New Ulm Cemetery.
The program included the traditional rifle volleys fired by the New Ulm Area Comrades of Valor and the cannon volleys of the New Ulm Battery. The New Ulm Municipal Band and the Concord Singers performed patriotic music. The observance concluded with a somber reading of the recently deceased veterans, followed by a symbolic releasing of white doves into the blue sky.
Recent New Ulm High School graduate Stephan "Zack" Holmquist gave the Memorial Day address. While a student, he attended American Legion Boys State and performed with the Minnesota All-State Choir. In June, he will travel to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. with NAFME All-National Honor Choir. He plans to major in civil engineering and theater at the University of Minnesota.
Holmquist's speech began with a reflection on his Boys State director's use of the phrase "You reap what you sow." He interpreted it to mean that commitment to your community would manifest itself in the world. He said that the axiom appropriately fits what it means to serve in the military.
"The work that an American soldier does for his or her country is unlike anything else," said Holmquist.
(Above) Stefan “Zack” Holmquist, center at podium, gave the Memorial Address at the Memorial Day Ceremony held at the New Ulm Cemetery.
Staff photo by Josh Moniz
He recounted the history of citizenship and service on his father's side of the family. He recalled how his grandfather's many brothers served in branches of the U.S. military during World War II. He said they each found the effort to be a truly worthy cause.
He also approached the subject of military service from another angle - his mother's process to become a U.S. citizen.
Holmquist's mother immigrated from Mexico City at age 16. She resented having to leave her life in Mexico. He said that his mother realized what the U.S. meant to her while filling out her citizenship application.
A question on the application asked "Are you willing to die to defend this country?" It prompted her to think about their neighbors on the street where they lived in Ohio.
"In the house on our right, there was a Jewish dentist with his wife and two kids. The house on the left was the house of our close friend: a divorced, gay attorney who had two sons, one of whom was an adopted Korean baby. ... Across the street, lived Karen and her husband, a racially mixed couple whose children were best friends with my sister and me," said Holmquist, "When my mom thought about whether she was willing to die to defend this country, she did not think about the flag or the Constitution. She thought about all her neighbors. She loved them all and would willingly give up her life to protect and defend them."
Memorial Day is a time when everybody comes together to recognize and thank veterans for their service, Holmquist said. Their sacrifice for America gave him the opportunity to attend college and his mother the chance to become a U.S. citizen.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)