ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Each white cross inside Historic Fort Snelling Veterans Memorial Garden acknowledges the ultimate sacrifice paid by men and women from Minnesota and nearby states and on the Sunday afternoon before Memorial Day, the spirit of remembrance resounded across the chapel courtyard.
Each poppy placed at a cross is a symbol of the great loss of life in the War on Terror since 9/11.
“This is an off-site ceremony in tribute to our fallen soldiers and we're honored to be here,” Commander Michael Pluta of the Memorial Rifle Squad said.
The Memorial Rifle Squad honored the fallen while marking the opening of this year’s Memorial Garden with the firing of the volleys, lowering of flags to half-staff and the playing of taps.
“It’s had to grow each year because, unfortunately, we add crosses every year for more who have died in the service of our country,” U.S. Army Chaplain Kenneth Beale, Jr. said.
Two crosses have been added to this year’s Memorial Garden in honor of a Minnesota soldier and a Wisconsin solider who were killed in the line of duty this year. A total of 345 crosses fill the garden.
“[It’s] a good opportunity to see the expressions, even in most cases in silence, by people who realize the awesomeness,” Beale said.
Songs, prayers and a sermon delivered by Beale led up to the outdoor ceremony. Hundreds of visitors gathered outside the chapel to recognize the lives that have been lost.
“All of my family has served in the military,” Elizabeth Reimers, a visitor, said. “So I just wanted today to pay my respects to all those that have served and gave everything that they had. It seems like an appropriate place to be on a day like today.”
Among the remembered is U.S. Marine Corps Dale W. Means, 23, of Jordan, Minn. Who lost his life while serving in Afghanistan on November 18, 2012.
The entire commemoration is a source of comfort for Means’ grieving parents.
“There [are] 18 and 19-year-olds listed out here,” Beale said. “This is a day to pause and give thanks for their lives.”
The tribute also allows those who wouldn’t dare forget the price of our freedom a fitting chance to do just that.
“I just think we can’t afford as a nation to forget,” Beale said.
There will be an open house at the Fort Snelling Veterans Memorial Garden from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Memorial Day.