It was quite the celebration!

Other than play pickleball (I don’t even know what that is) and get in those inflatable bounce houses along DeMers Avenue with the kids, I think we did most everything there was to do last weekend during the 125th anniversary celebration of our town.

That would be East Grand Forks where we loved every minute of the parades, the picnic on the Boardwalk, the fireworks, the music of Bob and the Beach Combers, Gary Emerson and Maury Finney and The Shadows, and so much more.

Camaraderie is such a wonderful thing and it is prevalent in our town. Seems everybody knows everybody else’s name or if they don’t they soon do. A very polite young boy named Josiah happened to scoot over and invite me to sit by him at the picnic on the Boardwalk. We soon discovered he’s the newest kid on my block. I’ll be stopping at his house to say “Hi” to Josiah and his family when I ride by on my bike.

I mentioned in my Saturday Grand Forks Herald column that out of everything taking place over the weekend, I was perhaps looking forward to Sunday’s patriotic program the most. I assure you that hour was even more over-the-top than I anticipated.

G. Paul Larson sang three patriotic songs so beautifully. A military band from Offut Air Force Base, Omaha, Neb., accompanied him on one. Together they were truly amazing.

It was a joy to witness the recognition of members of our fire department and police forces plus two military personnel stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base. They have amazing stories:

· Staff Sgt. Kristoffer Schneider was part of a group of Airmen preparing to deploy from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, to Afghanistan when they were attacked at Frankfurt International Airport by a lone gunman who later admitted to being influenced by jihadist propaganda. Two Airmen were killed and Schneider and another Airman were wounded in the attack. Despite his serious injuries, Schneider’s first thought was to pursue and apprehend the gunman, who was captured by German police and ultimately brought to trial. Schneider was awarded the Purple Heart and transferred to Grand Forks Air Force Base for care as a Wounded Warrior.

· Master Sgt. Clifford Monroe — During a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan, then-Technical Sergeant Clifford Monroe’s patrol was attacked by enemy insurgents. Unable to return fire from his vehicle, Monroe selflessly dismounted to lead a team of military and Afghan police to engage the enemy. Despite this and more than 35 further direct and indirect attacks, Monroe continued to tirelessly mentor local Afghan government and security officials, improving their connection to the population and decreasing insurgent control in the area. For his heroic actions throughout his deployment, Sergeant Monroe was awarded the Bronze Star medal, Army Combat Action badge and Air Force Combat Action medal.

Emcee Dan Klug had a powerful message. With his permission I share it with you. It’s titled it, “The Home of the Brave,” and is as follows:

Too often in our world, we hear of horrific circumstances that strike fear into our hearts and minds. It may be a natural disaster, an evil regime, a raging fire, or a lone gunman in a building. And for the majority of people, the natural reaction is to flee, to run away from the danger.

However, there is a group of people where fleeing is not an option. An individual, who, as the crowd runs away, they run towards the danger.

It is these brave men and women that we honor here today. They deliberately place themselves in harm’s way, so that we may be safe and secure.

Elmer Davis, a news reporter and author said: “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.”

We have before us this day, in our presence, and in our memories, the brave. And we say, “Thank You!”

However, service to our country and community is not limited to our military, law enforcement or fire departments. It is all of our responsibility.

John F. Kennedy, in his 1960 inaugural address, stated it best, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.

I believe our two communities have displayed this sentiment. Men and women, who, over our history, have demonstrated the bravery, courage, and faith that has made our cities a great place to live.

We have a rich history of God’s blessings upon the actions of our community’s ancestors. Brave men and women who exhibited the commitment to step into the fray and forge a better life.

We have inherited the fruit of their service. Think of the businesses, farms, churches, schools, hospitals, care centers and community services that have been established through their service.

Think of the individuals who have personally made your life better? Perhaps they were a grandparent, parent, friend, teacher, or civic leader? Who has served you, and made your life richer?

Now I ask you, whom can you serve, and enrich?

Life is measured, not on what you take, or feel entitled to. Rather, it is valued by what you give, by what you contribute.

East Grand Forks. “East” may be our location. “Forks” describes the two rivers merging at our location. But it is the word “Grand” that best defines and describes us. And it is our responsibility today, to continue this legacy.

Albert Einstein stated it this way, “Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.”

May we all remember today, that we are “the Land of the free” because we are “the home of the brave.”

May we be renewed today in knowing that we are “One nation under God, with liberty and justice for all”.

And may we have the faith and courage to act this out in service to each other every day.

May we all be reliant on faith in God, and each other, as the words of the great song proclaim,

“America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea.”

___________________________________________________________________

I say “thanks” Dan, for reminding each of us to be faithful and courageous and to do our part to continue the “grand” legacy.

There are many, I believe, who would agree that the 125th anniversary of East Grand Forks is one for the memory books.

What’s next? I’m going to find out what pickleball is and learn to play it.

Until Soon

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