By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Many families traveled to Camp Ripley in Little Falls to take part in activities, see military equipment, tour the Military Museum and watch the “Heroes of the Homefront” ceremony.
Others traveled from across the state to Camp Ripley that day, Sept. 15, to protest outside Ripley’s front gates.
Camp Ripley has, for 30 years, hosted a biennial (every other year) open house, inviting the community to visit at least a portion of the 53,000-acre military complex.
Children climbed aboard massive military equipment, sat in cockpits, climbed the rock wall and took part in other activities.
During this ceremony, Camp Ripley Post Commander Col. Scott St. Sauver awarded medals to two veterans who had earned them years before for their service.
Air Force Captain Anthony Foster of Bloomington, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1972 during the Vietnam War. Because of the nature of his mission, he never received his medal before leaving the service.
Sergeant First Class Michael Mills was injured during the Iraq War, and was evacuated before he received his awards. Mills, a resident of Freeport, was caught in an IED explosion in 2005 and experienced burns over 31 percent of his body. He was awarded The Bronze Star Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal and Overseas Service Ribbon.
Master Sergeant Eric Marts, hosts a radio show called, “Heroes of the Heartland” on WDAY in Fargo, N.D. When Marts lost his sight, he was no longer able to serve in the military, but continued to work with veterans and veterans’ groups. St. Sauver honored him with a plaque for his continued service.
Also honored was Bill Popp, founder and chairman of the Minnesota Military Family Foundation. He received the Commander’s award for Public Service, from St. Sauver.
Outside the gates, a group of individuals from the Little Falls Partners for Peace, Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace, Pax Christi, St. Cloud Alternatives to War and others, gathered with signs to protest the use of drones, as well as a war on Syria. One couple, Pat and Bob Tammen, traveled from Soudan, 90 miles north of Duluth. Bob, a veteran who served in Vietnam in 1965, and worked for a while at Camp Ripley in 1966, is a member of the Veterans for Peace Chapter 146.
Marla Keller, a member of the St. Cloud Alternatives to War group, said the group started after the horrors of 9-11. Many, she said, felt that inappropriate retaliation by the U.S. would cause recruitment in terrorism.
Father Tony Kroll, who now resides in Sauk Rapids and was pastor in Little Falls, Flensburg and Sobieski before he retired, was among the protesters.
“I’m not a mother,” he said. “But I can’t imagine a mother raising a child to kill the child of another mother.”