Leader of American Legion Honor Guard speaks on the importance of Veterans Day

Published 6:43 am Friday, November 10, 2023

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Lowell Peterson, 83, was born and raised in Albert Lea, and decided from a young age that he wanted to join the service.

“In seventh grade, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I got out of high school. I wanted to go into the service, and I wanted to make it a career,” said Peterson. “I ate, slept and drank military.”

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In 1958, Peterson joined the Navy at age 18. His parents, Norris, a Freeborn County judge, and Cora, noticed that their son matured a great deal during his time in the service, particularly after boot camp.

During his time in the Navy, Peterson met his wife, Barbara, who was also in the Navy at the time. After marriage, Peterson was stationed in Hawaii for three years.

Throughout the following decades, Peterson filled many roles. He worked as the chief hospital corpsman as well as in aviation medicine and aviation physiology training. He spent time in many parts of the world, including Vietnam, the Philippines and the South China Sea. He also taught at the Naval Hospital Corps School in Great Lakes, Illinois.

Following his time in the service, Peterson and his wife moved back to Albert Lea and raised their three young sons.

In total, Peterson was in the Navy for 20 years. His wife served for 5 1/2 years. One of their sons served in the Navy for 25 years, and he has grandsons in the Coast Guard and Air Force.

Even after retirement, Peterson stays active in helping fellow veterans. He currently is in charge of the Honor Guard for American Legion Post 56, taking over the position from Harold “Billy” Christenson shortly before his death in January 2023.

The Honor Guard does about 70 to 75 funerals a year for veterans. Peterson does not take this position lightly.

“It’s the greatest honor that I’ve ever been able to do,” he said. “It’s a great thing for the families. It’s a great thing for us to see and do.”

Peterson encourages young people to serve their country and volunteer in organizations that help veterans, especially Honor Guards.

“Service to me is great, volunteering (is great),” he said. “Get involved. In our Honor Guard, our average age is probably 74 years old.”

Veterans Day holds a special place to Peterson as he uses the time to show gratitude to his fellow service members.

“Veterans Day is a pretty important day to all of us. We gotta keep Veterans Day going,” he said. “Veterans Day means … we honor the people that have served our country. The greatest honor that you can do is serving your country.”