Take time to remember.

That’s what attendees of the St. Peter Memorial Day ceremony were encouraged to do year-round.

The ceremony at Minnesota Square Park this year gave more opportunity for solemn remembrance as the 63 names of St. Peter residents who have died while in the armed forces were read.

“Sixty-three of our military people have never returned home,” said Ron Haugen, commander of the WIlliam R. Witty American Legion Post 37. “Home to raise families, home to live lives. They gave their lives for us.”

Mayor Chuck Zieman read the “Gettysburg Address,” given by President Abraham Lincoln to mark the creation of a national cemetery on the site of the Civil War battlefield.

“Let us not forget the women and men who gave their lives so that we could gather and enjoy those freedoms that they sacrificed for,” he said after reading Lincoln’s words.

Many of the roughly 300 attendees took time to look at the 100 crosses with the names and pictures of Minnesotans who have died in military service since 9/11.

Ariane Mord, of North Mankato, said, “I don’t know so many of the names but they are so young. It’s awful. They are such nice looking young men.”

Dr. George Komaridis, owner and director ASC Psychological Clinic in Mankato, said he did not realize there had been 100 Minnesotan service members killed in the recent wars.

“Even though those crosses may be removed in a few days, let us remember them,” he said.

The clinic Komaridis founded is a local outpatient therapeutic hub for war veterans who he’s seen and treated for more than 40 years. A Vietnam veteran once told him that when the veteran was in the jungle of Vietnam, he was awed by the beauty of the natural world and then overwhelmed by all of the chaos going on right beneath it.

“Nobody can forget the people who die on our behalf,” he said.

Komaridis said it’s not a stretch to call soldiers heroes because they show courage, selflessness and patience.

“They had the courage to face something that others fear and give selflessly,” he said. “The will go out and do something for someone else without a thought for themselves.”

He said being patient when you know you will face danger is one of the hardest possible things to do.

“You have to be a person of integrity, willing to sacrifice for others,” Komaridis said.

Veterans who return carry the memories of brothers and sisters in arms who died, Komaridis said.

“They carry with them this sort of inexplicable knowledge that they made it through the war when their friends and colleagues died. And they ask this question: Why me and not him?”

Reach Associate Editor Nancy Madsen at 507-931-8568 or follow her on Twitter.com @SPHnancy.

Nancy Madsen has written for newspapers in Watertown, N.Y., and Mankato, as well as for PolitiFact Virginia at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Richmond, Va. Nancy is a graduate of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., and Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y.

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