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Speaker shares family’s service in military and support for America

May 28, 2013
By Josh Moniz - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - Hundreds of people paused Monday morning and attended the Memorial Day program at the New Ulm Civic Center to honor America's fallen service members.

Due to rainy conditions, the parade was cancelled and the observance moved indoors.

Richard "Fritz" Rieke, a recent New Ulm High School graduate, delivered the keynote speech about his family's tradition and history in military service. He explained that his mother's side has had family members serve in every war from the French-Indian War to the Vietnam War.

Article Photos

Staff photo by Josh Moniz
In the foreground the silhouette of the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima in February 1945 during World War II serves as a sentinel to the New Ulm Soldiers Rest Cemetery on Monday.?Flags marked the graves of veterans in observance of Memorial Day.

A poignant point in Rieke's speech revealed that his mother's father Richard Donnelly and his mother's eventual stepfather Erwin Breithaupt both served in World War II, and came to opposite opinions on the Vietnam War. Despite their differences, they shared concerns for their fellow soldiers.

Donnelly served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific campaign. He saw some combat action when a Japanese bombing run attacked his ship. He suffered a wound to his thumb while ducking for cover.

Breithaupt served in the European campaign and fought in the D-Day invasion. He sustained injuries that cost him an eye. He encountered a German camp that had been left filled with dead and dying prisoners, many who did not survive even after the camp was liberated.

Donnelly pledged support for the Vietnam War and constantly struggled with his frustration over the public's negative treatment of U.S. troops during the war, regardless of views about the war itself. Breithaupt strongly opposed the war because he wanted to prevent more young men from seeing the horrors of war that he witnessed, according to Rieke.

Rieke said that even though his relatives strongly differed on their opinions of the Vietnam War, both men tried to give support to their fellow service members in their own ways.

Rieke said sharing the war-time experiences of his family during Monday's Memorial Day observance felt good because the information could teach others. He said he hoped to also learn more by hearing about the experiences of other veterans.

The ceremony concluded with the New Ulm Comrades of Valor Honor Guard and the New Ulm Battery each firing a salute outside the Civic Center with the loading bay doors open for people to watch.

The Memorial Day program included the traditional playing of "Taps" by Sam Arsers. Nathan Brehmer, a recent Cathedral High School graduate, read the Gettysburg Address.

The ceremony concluded with the New Ulm Comrades of Valor Honor Guard and the New Ulm Battery each firing a salute outside the Civic Center with the loading bay doors open.

The event was sponsored by the Joint Veterans Council, which includes the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 15 and Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1648, American Legion Post 132 and Auxiliary, Sons of American Legion and the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Prairieland Defenders Chapter 807.

(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at



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