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Would you like to contribute to a cause to honor our local veterans?

by Trinity Gruenberg

The Veteran’s Memorial at Sunnybrook Park in Wadena has service members from surrounding communities listed on their memorial as do many other cities. The Bertha community has the most names noted on their memorial compared to several other communities.

“What was it about the Bertha community? We provided so many people for service...was it our history? Was it what was being taught in the school? Was it a local thread of patriotism that runs through our community? I don’t know,” explained Jerry Zimmerman.

There are many factors behind why someone would join the military.

“Each time period is unique. Every veteran has their own story,” he added.

Zimmerman was recently able to join the American Legion after the Legion Act passed in 2019 allowing Cold War veterans and the like to be able to join after being ignored for decades. Zimmerman said the American Legion is an important part of the community.

He recently picked up about 300 one-foot tall, white, metal crosses from the Bertha American Legion. He conversed with other Legion members about the crosses taking up space in storage as they haven’t been used in years. Many of the members felt the boxes were getting too heavy to tote around and put out at local cemeteries. Instead of turning them in for scrap, Zimmerman purchased them for $100.

The crosses are currently being housed at the Bertha Museum. Zimmerman’s hope is that a local church or organization would put the crosses out for Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

Legion Member of 50 years Art Packard explained they used to put out wreaths on graves for Memorial Day. It became increasingly difficult to find the materials to make the many wreaths needed. After seeing what other veteran cemeteries were doing, they got the idea to make crosses instead.

Packard and Leroy Voge, who worked at Homecrest, made the crosses there about 20 years ago. The company donated the material, cut the iron, and painted the crosses.

The crosses were fashioned with a few paper poppies and placed at veterans’ graves for Memorial Day. They made a few batches over the years to ensure there were enough crosses for each veteran.

He recalled taking the crosses out to 126 graves at the Woodside Cemetery in Wrightstown, about 200 at a catholic cemetery, while other members went to other cemeteries.

Doing this over the years, more veterans’ graves were discovered than they even had on their list.

“The last couple of years they were a chore. They just got too heavy to carry around,” noted Packard.

The Bertha American Legion and Auxiliary still put American flags out for Memorial Day.

“If they could be put someplace to honor the veterans that would be my wish,” shared Packard.

The commander asks during the Memorial and Veterans Day ceremonies to please let them know about veterans from the community.

They tend to the Bertha and Hewitt area cemeteries and handled Verndale for a few years before another group stepped up.

Packard explained it takes about three hours to cover a cemetery to put out flags.

He is thankful for the younger help that comes to assist.

“I enjoyed putting up the flags and crosses when I was able-bodied,” said Packard.

They hope someday the crosses can be used once again to honor local veterans.

If you have any interest in the Bertha American Legion or Auxiliary, would like to let them know of a veteran in your family that has passed or would like to help put out these crosses, please contact them. Their Facebook page is Bertha American Legion Post #366 William Larson Post. You can call Karen O’Bar at 218-639-9512 or Commander Matt Cardinal at 320-260-2173.

They meet on the first Tuesday of each month.



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