Guest column: Never leave memories of soldiers behind
Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 30, 2023
Guest column by Amy Klobuchar
It’s been said that a nation that forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten. We tell the world who we are as a country by how we come together to remember and honor our fallen heroes on Memorial Day — and every day.
So many Americans have put themselves in harm’s way for our nation. One example is Charles Frances Shepherd, a veteran who fought in World War I as part of the Meuse Argonne Offensive in France. On Nov. 5th, 1918, Charles’ squadron was spotted by the German Army, and bombs began to fall. One got too close, injuring the corporal of his squadron.
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Refusing to let a fellow service member die alone, Private Shepherd and two others put the corporal on a stretcher and sought out a first aid station to help him get treatment. It cost them. Their group was spotted and shot at by the German Army. Private Shepherd was hit by rifle fire, and he took a bullet to the forearm.
The next day, Private Shepherd was taken to a field hospital near Beaumont, France for treatment, and five days later, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, an armistice was signed. The war was won.
Charles Frances Shepherd made it home, but his corporal did not. As we reflect on his story, we are moved by the self-sacrifice: his squadron refused to abandon their corporal, even when they knew he most likely wasn’t going to make it. Fighting on the frontlines, they understood the weight of his sacrifice and felt a responsibility to honor it.
Memorial Day tasks each and every one of us with doing the same.
We take this responsibility seriously in Minnesota. We have so many examples of neighbors lifting up the memories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country.
In 2019, Sgt. Kort Plantenberg, Chief Warrant Officer Charles Nord and Chief Warrant Officer James Rogers Jr. of the Minnesota Army National Guard tragically lost their lives in a helicopter crash. Without hesitation, the couple whose property they crashed on took it upon themselves to raise a flag and show the families of the fallen that they were thinking of them. What began as a single flagpole is now a beautiful, permanent memorial which will forever honor their legacy.
Last year, I worked with Sen. Tina Smith, Rep. Tom Emmer, and Rep. Michelle Fischbach to rename the Avon, Perham and Winsted post offices in honor of Sgt. Plantenberg, Chief Warrant Officer Nord and Chief Warrant Officer Rogers so that their bravery and courage will continue to inspire their hometowns for generations to come.
Another way we can continue to honor the sacrifice and memories of these brave men and women is by better caring for the veterans and service members who follow in their footsteps. When our veterans signed up to serve, there wasn’t a waiting line, and when they come home to the United States of America and need either a job, or education, or help in their later years — there shouldn’t be a waiting line.
Over the past years I got to know Brian Muller, the husband of Amie Muller. Amie was a courageous Minnesota soldier who served in the National Guard and was stationed right next to one of the most notorious burn pits in Iraq. Amie tragically passed away in 2017 at age 36, leaving Brian and their three children behind, nine months after being diagnosed with Stage III pancreatic cancer. After she died, Brian devoted himself to passing legislation to make sure other soldiers didn’t suffer the same fate. We now honor Amie’s memory with the PACT Act, legislation recently signed into law that is providing support for veterans who fought in Vietnam and the Gulf War as well as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
So on Memorial Day, we remember and honor the legacies and sacrifices of our fallen heroes by recommitting ourselves to ensuring those still with us receive the gratitude and care they deserve. Not just on Memorial Day, but every day.
Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, is a U.S. senator.