Memorial Day On The Highground

Memorial Day On The Highground


            They come for a variety of reasons, all with the fundamental idea of not allowing the memories of fallen comrades or loved ones to die with the passing of the years. For some it’s their first visit to The Highground. For most, however, it’s a return trip.

            Coming to The Highground for the Memorial Day observance has become a tradition for Marshfield’s T & T Riders. For a number of years, it has marked their motorcycle club’s first official ride of the year. “We have about 20 bikes and several cars – about 40 to 50 people in all,” said Randy, a spokesman for the group. “A bunch of us are veterans and would have come anyway,” he added. (Each year The Highground also gratefully receives a sizeable donation from their members.)

            My sister’s neighbor’s brother died in Vietnam,” said a woman visitor from Durand. “She couldn’t bring herself to come here to find the name herself, so she asked my sister and I to come [and find it for her].” I’m from here in town,” said Ernest Schwellenbach. “I’ve been out here a lot. It takes an awful lot of maintenance, doesn’t it?

            “I’m a Vietnam vet – I come here quite often,” said Ronald Hahn, of Edgar, WI. “It’s quite . . . . well, it’s a place where you want to come back to. I brought the grandkids today to show them – to learn a bit about the service.”

            “This is a beautiful memorial,” Ronald’s wife, Carolyn added. “My dad’s a retired Air Force man. He’s from Arizona and has been all around the United States. He says The Highground is the most impressive one [veterans memorial] he’s ever seen. It’s so beautifully kept up and always inviting. You can tell there’s a lot of heart here.”

            “We came from Minneapolis to pay respects to our fallen brothers . . . . that they’re not forgotten,” said an unidentified Vietnam veteran formerly from Eau Claire. “When I get back there, I try to come to The Highground too. I was involved back in the early 80’s, when it was just a sand pile. [Now] it’s the most beautiful place in the state. We’re lucky to live near here.  This is a place we call home. . . . The Highground is particularly important – especially for our children.”

            The ceremony is about to begin. Approximately 150 people gather to form a circle. After a short introduction, a vial of The Highground earth is passed in clockwise fashion, one person at a time, giving everyone an opportunity to speak or observe a moment of silence. Quivering lips recall sacrifices made. Names are spoken in remembrance. Tears fall quietly. A silent thought is offered from a heart unable to speak.

            Admonitions are made to remember those still suffering – from WWI through Desert Storm. Thanks are given for those who sacrificed so much. The earth-filled vial has completed its journey around the circle. Veteran volunteers representing Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, and WWII take the vial to The Dove. Each one takes a portion of the earth and ceremoniously sprinkles it on this special tribute, which honors all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action.

            One person standing with those remaining on the Plaza begins to sing, “God Bless America”. Others join in. As the last refrains float into the hillsides, some of those gathered go to meet the warriors returning from The Dove. It’s Memorial Day on The Highground.


Memorial Day Doesn’t Tell A War

-for somebody who once wore it


I cry today the Memorial                                                                       an unforgotten war

Highground                                                                                         a hypnotized people

An empty wind                                                                                    an uneasy belief

stirs chimes and hills                                                                           that a Persian Gulf

echoes the flood plain                                                                         fresh new war

to Southeast Asia.                                                                               Can heal another.


I smell a country                                                                                 It stings like yesterday

taste a soldier’s fear                                                                           twenty-five years later.

feel burning straw                                                                               A generation of peace

hear a twig                                                                                          still missing in action

a mother’s heart                                                                                  the human race

and a story break                                                                                still prisoners of war.

on the six o’clock news.

                                                                                                            Flowers die

Sculptured bronze                                                                               war memories fade

metal bodies                                                                                        for those who don’t touch it

freeze time                                                                                           but the green patch of cloth

and history                                                                                          placed in the center

for a nation too easily                                                                         of the Memorial Day wreath

forgot the words,                                                                                 speaks an authentic story

“never again.”                                                                                    tells a war.

                                                                                                            A somebody once wore it.

A national flag

snaps to attention

salutes a lonely wind                                                                          by: Barbara Kaufman