May 31, 2023 at 4:14 p.m.
Memorial Day ceremony held at Greenwood Cemetery
American flags flapped in the wind and bugle notes filled the air as community members gathered to honor fallen soldiers and first responders at Greenwood Cemetery in Sauk Centre on May 29.
American Legion Post 67 member Scott Kowski led the event, beginning his speech with a reference to a local Vietnam War veteran that lost his life many years after serving.
“This year marks the 50th anniversary that the final combat troops came home from the Vietnam War,” Kowski said. “On March 29th, 1973, the last American combat troops boarded a plane in Vietnam and returned home. One of the individuals on this plane was Master Sergeant Max J. Beilke, who was declared the ‘Last American Combat Soldier’ to leave Vietnam.”
After graduating from high school in Alexandria, Beilke served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars with the U.S. Army. He spent the decades after retiring as an advocate for veterans in Washington D.C.
“Although Beilke made it out of Vietnam alive, he would make the ultimate sacrifice almost 28.5 years later when he was killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001,” Kowski said. “In tribute to Beilke, The V.A. the clinic in Alexandria, was renamed to the Max J. Beilke Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic on September 11, 2010.”
Several dozen spectators watched as Kowski read the names of local veterans, Legion auxiliary members and first responders that lost their lives within the past year.
Attendees removed their caps while he concluded the event with a prayer that honored those that sacrificed their lives serving the nation.
“On this Memorial Day, we pray for those who courageously laid down their lives for the cause of freedom,” Kowski said. “May the examples of their sacrifice inspire in us the selfless love of your son, our lord Jesus Christ. Bless the families of our fallen troops, and fill their homes and their lives with your strength and peace.”