Community members and veterans gathered Monday, May 27, in memory of fallen service members.
Two Harbors' Memorial Day service started in the Two Harbors High School Auditorium. Members of the Two Harbors City Band led a tribute to the fallen service members by playing various patriotic selections, including "God Bless America," "America the Beautiful" and various fight songs from the military branches.
Jim Latvala, a Marine veteran from Two Harbors, spoke of his experiences from a recent trip back to Vietnam to visit battle sites and to bring orphanage donations from himself and other donors.
While visiting a memorial museum, Latvala encountered a group of men and women from the People's Army of Vietnam marching in full uniform.
"It was a classic double-take moment," Latvala said. "As we respectfully watched this group go by, we nodded and waved respectfully and many of them returned the gesture."
After visiting the memorial, Latvala came face-to-face with a former Viet Cong officer in uniform.
"He saluted and shook my hand and saluted," Latvala said. "I was literally face-to-face with my former enemy. But he took off one of his medals and pinned it on me and I almost lost all composure. I'll never forget that moment."
Latvala reflected further on this moment of shared humanity with the senior officer.
"We were all young back then, just doing what our countries asked us to do," Latvala said "We were instruments of war. Now we were just people who experienced similar things and had lost family and friends. It's as simple as that."
Latvala said it was necessary for him to take this trip to Vietnam 50 years later so he could see the changes made to the country.
"I needed to take this trip because my war was never really over until now," Latvala said. "I'll always remember what happened there. I'll always remember the faces of those who died there. But to see the country is now calm and tranquil and it's taken the place of fear and chaos."
Following the memorial service, a smaller contingent gathered at the Lake View Cemetery. The Two Harbors American Legion Post 109 Honor Guard presented the colors and fired volleys. A community luncheon was held at the American Legion following the ceremony.