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Gary-New Duluth remembers neighbors who died in war

The names of residents who have died, from World War II to Iraq, are read aloud during the annual Memorial Day ceremony.

Memorial Day at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial.
Sgt. William Regner, left, and Staff Sgt. Ali Maamoun march past a plaque remembering America’s fallen Monday during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — During a break in Monday morning’s rain, Mark Rubin read the names of men from far-west Duluth neighborhoods and Oliver, Wisconsin, who died in war.

Attending the Memorial Day ceremony at Gary-New Duluth’s Veterans Memorial, community members, family members and veterans listened as Rubin read the 24 names from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Memorial Day at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial.
Retired St. Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin welcomes people to the Memorial Day ceremony at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial on Monday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“We remember them by how we live and we also remember them by saying their names so that we never forget their sacrifice … we say their names today, but please remember them today, tomorrow and in the future and pass it on to the next generation — how important it is to remember the sacrifice so that we can live our freedom today,” said Rubin, the former St. Louis County attorney.

Their families, after all, are still part of the community, said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson.

“These are our names. You are here.” Larson said. “These names continue to exist in this community.”

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Memorial Day at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial.
Mark Boben talks with a visitor after the Gary-New Duluth Memorial Day ceremony Monday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Built in 1952 by WWII veterans and expanded and restored a decade ago, the memorial at the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and East Stowe Street has been a point of pride for the far-west Duluthians, said Mark Boben, of the Gary New Duluth Development Alliance.

Populated by eastern European immigrants working at the steel mill, the neighborhoods were tight-knit communities, Boben said. He hopes the monument and remembrance of names will help keep that sense of connection among residents.

Boben’s dad's name is on the WWII monument, and he knew almost everyone else on the original monument, which listed WWII and Korean War veterans from the neighborhood and, later, a partial list of Vietnam War veterans. The addition includes the names of veterans of more recent conflicts and Vietnam veterans whose names were missed earlier.

Memorial Day at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial.
Members of Scout Troop 13 stand ready to present 14 flags that have flown over America or what became the U.S. during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial on Monday morning.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“Now, of course, a lot of the folks that are getting elderly, they’re passing or moving, and younger people are coming in,” Boben said. “We certainly want to instill that same commitment to their neighborhood and their community. This is part of that.”

During his remarks, Cmdr. Roger Reinert of the U.S. Navy Reserve referred to the work ethic the neighborhoods' residents brought with them to their service.

Memorial Day at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial.
Cmdr. Roger Reinert talks of sacrifice during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial, using as an example Pfc. Herbert Frenzell, killed in combat in Vietnam on Jan. 21, 1967. Reinert recently saw Frenzell’s name on the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
Memorial Day at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial.
Attendees sing during the Memorial Day ceremony at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial on Monday morning.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“This memorial is a product of love, respect and honor that generations of Duluthians have had for their Gary-New Duluth, Smithville, Riverside, Morgan Park and Fond Du Lake neighborhoods,” Reinert said. “And even more, the women and men — their sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, mothers, fathers — who have taken those ‘I work for a living’ blue-collar roots to far corners of the globe while in service of their country.”

Although the U.S. is no longer at war, having ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan last year, images of war are fresh in people’s minds ever since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, which several speakers referenced.

Larson said the last two years have been trying, with so many global events that have “shaken us to our core.”

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Memorial Day at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson speaks at the Memorial Day ceremony at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial on Monday.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“And then you add elements like Ukraine, and the realities of threats. Not just to our freedom but our humanity. And we see and realize more deeply how important the gift of service has been — the sacrifice of women and men who have died in service in combat to our greatest good and our biggest humanity," Larson said. "We are in one another; we are in the names on this monument; we are in the names under these tents today.”

Rubin quoted Garry Kasporov, the exiled Russian chess grandmaster and supporter of Ukraine who warned that evil “grows back through cracks of our apathy.”

“We have to be vigilant to protect our freedom,” Rubin said.

“I know that the fallen will not mind if you also, when you say your prayers, remember the innocence of Ukraine, remember the innocent children in Texas from this last week,” Rubin said as the ceremony ended. “Your heart breaks as mine does.”

Memorial Day at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial.
Staff Sgt. Ali Maamoun, left, and Sgt. William Regner fold an American flag as Spc. Evan Nelson salutes and Spc. Jaxon Crary stands at the Gary-New Duluth Veterans Memorial flagpole Monday. The Honor Guard raised new American and POW-MIA flags over the memorial.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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Jimmy Lovrien covers energy, mining and the 8th Congressional District for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jlovrien@duluthnews.com or 218-723-5332.
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