‘Thank you, veterans’

Harry L. Burke, 85, holds his cap adorned with Purple Heart and Marine Corps pins while praying Nov. 11 during the state's official Veterans Day ceremony in Inver Grove Heights. He's attended the program for around 20 years. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)
Harry L. Burke, 85, holds his cap adorned with Purple Heart and Marine Corps pins while praying Nov. 11 during the state's official Veterans Day ceremony in Inver Grove Heights. He's attended the program for around 20 years. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar rests her head on her clasped hands while Chaz Johnson reads a statement from U.S. Rep. John Kline during the state's official Veterans Day ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Community Center in Inver Grove Heights. Other dignitaries that spoke included U.S. Sen. Al Franken, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum and Inver Grove Heights Mayor George Tourville, to the far right. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

Accompanied by the 34th Infantry Division Red Bull Band, Fourth-graders from Pine Bend Elementary in Inver Grove Heights sing the "Armed Forces Salute," where service members stand when the song from their branch is played. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review)

A group of young men and women take the oath of enlistment during the state's Veterans Day celebration Nov. 11 in Inver Grove Heights. (Kaitlyn Roby/Review) See more photos in the Referenced Gallery link below.

Inver Grove Heights welcomes veterans, dignitaries, new enlistees

Standing in a room of dignitaries, veterans and new enlistees in Inver Grove Heights Nov. 11, Harry L. Burke said he felt lucky.

Purple Heart and Marine Corps pins on his cap, Burke, 85, reminisced about his less than one year overseas during the Korean War. He had several brushes with death and two stints in a Tokyo hospital, before finally being sent home due to wounds from shrapnel June 10, 1951.

"It ends up that I spent more time in Japan than I did in Korea," Burke said. "I was a very fortunate person compared to a lot of my friends."

For the past 20 years or so, the Bloomington man has attended the state's official Veterans Day program, this year held at the Inver Grove Heights Veterans Memorial Community Center.

"It makes you feel that you did something; that you accomplished something," Burke said.

Pomp and circumstance

After the posting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance, the 34th Infantry Division Red Bull Band of the Minnesota National Guard performed the Armed Forces Salute.

Students from Pine Bend Elementary teacher Micah Klotz's fourth-grade class sang the songs of each branch of service, and past and present armed forces members stood for theirs. Klotz also belongs to the Red Bull Band.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken gave remarks, as did Inver Grove Heights Mayor George Tourville, Minnesota National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Richard Nash and Chaz Johnson, who read a letter from U.S. Rep. John Kline, a veteran himself.

Veterans voices

Though those who spoke before her focused on the sacrifices made, the wounds, seen and unseen, and thanking those who have volunteered to serve, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum encouraged veterans to share their stories. She highlighted the American Folklife Center's Veterans History Project and Veteran's Voices Month (October in Minnesota).

"Share you story to help us remember," she told the audience.

Burke's biographical information is listed in the Veterans History Project website. He is featured in "The Last Stand of Fox Company," a book on him and his unit of service. They defended a road pass near the Chosin Reservoir, an artificial lake northeast of the Korean Peninsula.

He spoke two years ago in Monticello, covering the five days in the "Frozen Chosin" Reservoir, where he fought the Chinese and the elements — namely temperatures dipping to 30 or 40 degrees below zero. He thawed his food in his helmet. Bullets flew above his head as he slept; he fired a bazooka when told to emerge from his foxhole.

He enlisted in 1948, and after being injured twice in Korea, he was discharged.

He still stays in touch with the Chosin Few, a group of veterans who survived the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea, some of whom attended the ceremony Tuesday in Inver Grove Heights.

"I've been to all of the reunions since 1991," Burke said. "I intend to go as long as I'm physically able to."

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7815 and kroby@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/KRobyNews.

See more photos in the Referenced Gallery link below.

 

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