Community to honor fallen soldiersPublished 11:33am Wednesday, July 11, 2012
When locals enjoy a ball game Friday night at Marcusen Park, much more than baseball will be on the minds of some families.
The game between the U.S. Military All-Stars and Austin Greyhounds will also serve as time for people to honor wounded and fallen military heroes, including Nicholas Dickhut of Stewartville, Minn., who died April 30 during a combat operation in Afghanistan.
Honor and Remember — an organization dedicated to remembering the fallen that started in 2005 and is now in 23 states — will provide Dickhut’s family with a personalized Honor and Remember Flag.
“It really helps them a lot just to know they are not going to be forgotten,” said Mike LaBelle, director of Honor and Remember in Minnesota. “That’s their biggest fear is that their son or daughter will be forgotten, and this is letting them know that’s not going to happen.”
LaBelle met founder of Honor and Remember George Lutz years ago and was inspired to join. Lutz started the program after his son died in combat, as he realized there was no official organization or flag to honor fallen military heroes. Now Lutz and many others are pushing for legislation that will nationally recognize the Honor and Remember flag along with others, such as the POW MIA flag.
“It will happen,” LaBelle said.
To date, roughly 120 Minnesota families have received flags, which are made with the help of donations from veteran service organizations and fundraisers.
But Friday’s game won’t start right after that ceremony, either. Purple Heart recipient Mark Browne and current Department Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart will be present for a ceremonial first pitch on behalf of all combat wounded veterans. Browne received a Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, a Combat Infantry Badge, an Air Medal and Army Commendation in service to our country with the 11th Air Cavalry in Vietnam. He was elected Department Commander at a convention on May 26 in Minneapolis.
Furthermore, Derek Farwell, a national service officer with the Military Order of the Purple Heart, will be help answer questions on veteran’s benefits during the game. Recipients of the Purple Heart Medal can gather at Piggy Blues BBQ (323 N. Main Street, Austin) at 5 p.m. for a meeting with Browne and Farwell as part of the pre-game preparations, as well.