‘America’s heroes’

Published 10:16 am Monday, May 31, 2010

A Freeborn County businesswoman who is a veteran of the U.S. Navy encouraged area residents on Monday to reflect on the contributions of veterans — and especially those men and women who have died while in uniform —  so that the rest of the people in the United States can cherish the things that are important to them.

During a special Memorial Day service at Graceland Cemetery in front of about 400 people, Rhonda K. Allison, a Persian Gulf War veteran, asked where the country would be without its veterans.

“They are America’s heroes,” she said.

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Drawing on her own experiences in the service and those of her family and friends, Allison encouraged people to thank the veterans in the community for all they have done.

Allison said she joined the Navy when she turned 18 in 1989. She served four years active duty and 18 months in the reserves. She is originally from Glenville, and she and her husband, Mike, have three children.

She currently works on the lending team at Farmers State Bank.

She said she had a patriotic upbringing, growing up in what she described as a military family, with her grandfather, father, uncle and brother all serving in the military. When she joined the service at 18, she knew she had to grow up fast.

“I am proud to be a veteran, and I am proud to be an American,” Allison noted. 

During her remarks, Allison specifically referred to Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, of Albert Lea, whose Chinook helicopter was shot down June 28, 2005, while on a rescue mission in Afghanistan.

She said Goodnature was proud of what he could do for his country. And it is thanks to men and women like Goodnature, who step up and take the oath to serve this country, that America is able to have its freedoms.

People should think often of service members and their families, she said. 

The theme for the program and the parade before that were “Women Veterans of Freeborn County.”

Allison’s remarks were followed by a Placing of the Wreaths ceremony by representatives of Albert Lea veterans organizations, plus the Minnesota National Guard, Gold Star parents Don and Deb Goodnature and POW-MIA representative Al Brooks. 

The Careyaires men’s vocal group and the Albert Lea High School band also provided several selections of patriotic music, and the American Legion Post 56 color guard members presented a volley fire. A bugler played “Taps.”

The ceremony followed several other services earlier in the morning, including observances at Lakewood Cemetery and St. Theodore’s Cemetery with gravesite rites honoring Freemond Madson, namesake of Albert Lea’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 447, and Leo Carey, namesake of American Legion Post 56.

Other special ceremonies were given at Hillcrest Cemetery and the Freeborn County Veterans Memorial.

There was also a flag-raising ceremony and memorial service at Fountain Lake Park for those buried at sea. As part of this ceremony two wreaths were cast into Fountain Lake — one from shore and the other from an airplane.

At 10 a.m. was the annual Memorial Day Parade.

There were numerous Memorial Day services at cemeteries in Albert Lea’s neighboring communities.