Memorial Day honors fallenFor some people Memorial Day is the holiday that starts the summer. For others it is chance to honor all veterans — a general salute to every man or woman who served in this country’s armed services. For others it is a personal event with a special meaning.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
For some people Memorial Day is the holiday that starts the summer.
For others it is chance to honor all veterans — a general salute to every man or woman who served in this country’s armed services.
For others it is a personal event with a special meaning.
“In my 22 years in the (National) Guard I only had two very bad days,” said Sheldon Mohr, retired member of the 817th Engineer Co. (Sapper) and a veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq. “The day we lost Phil and the day we lost Lance.”
Spc. Phil Brown, 21, Jamestown, was killed on May 8, 2004. Staff Sgt. Lance J. Koenig, 33, Fargo, died on Sept. 22, 2004. Both were killed by improvised explosive devices while serving with the 141st Engineer Battalion of the North Dakota National Guard in Iraq.
“It was a hard day but we’re very proud,” said Deidra Brown, mother of Phil Brown. “We know our son did what he wanted to do.”
She said Memorial Day has special meaning to her.
“The word I come up with is courage,” she said. “It best sums up what our servicemen and women provide for us.”
Deidra Brown said May is particularly hard because of the anniversary of Phil’s death, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.
“Every day is tough,” she said. “But the community has not forgot Phil or the others that were lost.”
Mohr said the memory of the day Phil Brown died is still vivid.
“It wasn’t a good day,” he said. “Reality kicked in.”
Memorial Day takes on special meaning to those who have lost comrades in arms.
“I had never really thought about Memorial Day before,” said Mark Chapin, a veteran of the 141st Engineer Battalion. “Those experiences bring it home. It is unreal to think about all the people that went overseas and all that were killed in all our wars.”
The 141st Engineer Battalion was designated as the 817th Engineer Co. (Sapper) in 2008.
Chapin was on patrol with Phil Brown when the IED exploded. He received the Purple Heart for the injuries he suffered in the blast.
“The people you serve with become family,” Chapin said.
Brian Kilzer, a veteran of the 141st Engineer Battalion deployment in 2004 and a current North Dakota National Guard soldier, agrees.
“Memorial Day means more now,” he said. “It is a more personal experience with more meaning behind it.”
Phil Brown’s death brought the war home to Jamestown.
“I remember the whole community coming to a stop for the funeral,” said Jim Reuther, Jamestown fire chief. “The streets were lined with people from downtown to up Mill Hill.”
Reuther speculated it was the first funeral in Jamestown for a combat death since the end of the Vietnam War about 30 years prior. The last Vietnam War death of a Jamestown resident occurred in 1969.
“The people of this town have been wonderfully patriotic,” Deidra Brown said. “The members of the unit have shown such loyalty. They have shown us so much love.”
Memorial Day is also a time to honor the servicemen and women who have returned home.
“I’m proud of my service,” Mohr said. “And I’m proud of what myself and my fellow veterans did.”
Chapin said members of the 141st Engineer Battalion are planning a reunion for 2014 on the 10th anniversary of the deployment.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org