The first Memorial Day was observed in Faribault on May 30, 1869 under the leadership of the local G.A.R. Post.  Post Commander Captain J.C. Turner took command of the first march to the Good Shepherd Cemetary.  G.A.R. is the Grand Army of the Republic.  It was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army (United States Army) Union Navy (United States Navy), Marines and U.S. Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War for the United States forces.

The first observance marchers went to three local cemeteries where flags and flowers were placed on the graves of fallen comrades with a ceremony of the reading of scripture and prayer by the Reverend M. Dubois.  In doing a little research I found out many churches were just starting about this time in Faribault.  The Congregational Church building in Faribault was constructed in 1867.  The First Methodist Episcopal in 1860.  The cornerstone to the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour was laid in July of 1862.  It opened in June of 1869.  The tower was completed in 1902.

The German Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church was organized in January of 1870 with a 34 by 60 foot brick church building constructed in 1871 at a cost of $3,300.  The first Lutheran school was started in 1875.

In 1869 Bishop Grace gave the German Catholic community of Faribault permission to form their own parish.  The first celebrated mass was February 2, 1870 for Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

That makes this year the 150th observance of Memorial Day in Faribault.  For over a decade Faribault has observed Memorial Day by honoring local veterans.  A Grand Marshal, Honorary Grand Marshal, Combat Veteran and Honorary Combat Veteran have been recognized in the past.

This year the Grand Marshal for the parade is Jim Nielson.  Jim was born in Tyler, Minnesota  April 19, 1946.  He told us Friday on the KDHL AM Minnesota program after graduating from college he got what he expected in the mail.  His draft card and entered the U.S. Army March 9, 1969.

Nielson had basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky they had advanced infantry training at Fort Polk, Louisiana for a six month training at engineering school in Virginia.  After that Nielson went to Maryland for Army Intelligence School.  He wasn't finished with training yet.  It was off to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for Chemical Warfare School.  Another six month stint.

Nielson went to Vietnam with the 525th Military Intelligence Group.  After his discharge in October of 1971 he returned home.  Jim and Ellen raised their children in Faribault and he is still active in the Faribault American Legion Post 43.  He was Commander in 1996.  A member of the Color Guard, Honor Guard, Executive Board and is currently on the Contributions Committee.

I have been on trips overseas with Jim and even roomed with him when we were in Africa together.  I know he deserves some sort of special badge of courage for that experience.  We made some lifetime memories on that trip.  I found him to be respectful of their culture.  Engaging with members of the local community.

I hope a lot of people will line the parade route Memorial Day and cheer for Jim Nielson and his family as they pass by.  When returning from Vietnam his commanding officer ordered him not to wear his uniform because of incidents in airports at the time.

Let's show Jim how much we appreciate his service to the USA.  A soldier doesn't choose the war he or she fights in.  Even though the war was unpopular we need to thank the soldiers of that era for their willingness to protect us and put their lives on the line for their country.

The Honorary Grand Marshal is Steve Ernste.  Born in Faribault January 22, 1948.  Ernste joined the navy in 1966 went to basic training at Great Lakes in Chicago.  Then was sent to Pensacola, Florida for a year.  He was stationed in the Azores Islands under the title of Naval Storekeeper and was there for 19 months.

Following that experience Ernste was a Aviation Storekeeper aboard a aircraft carrier that was stationed in the Mediterranean.  He was discharged in July of 1970.

Ernste has continued serving in the American Legion.  Involved with the Honor Guard, Commander of Post 43 in 1998.  Member of Central Veterans Committee for 12 years.  40 and 8 Club Commander for 2 years.  Steve and wife Pat still reside in Faribault.

Faribault Memorial Day 2019 Honorary Grand Marshal Steve Ernste. Photo provided by Ernste family
Faribault Memorial Day 2019 Honorary Grand Marshal Steve Ernste. Photo provided by Ernste family

The Combat Veteran being recognized this year is Keith Paulson and his service dog Molly is being honored also.  Paulson told listeners of our AM Minnesota program Friday he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when he returned home from Iraq and balked at the suggestion of having a service dog.

Paulson said Molly has been a difference maker in his life along with his wife Jenn.  He related how he was always anxious upon his return from the Middle East.  Molly calms him down.

Keith was born in Zumbrota July 4, 1962 and entered military service in July of 1981.  He had his basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.  Then was in Missouri for advance training before going to jump school in Fort Benning, Georgia.  Paulson was a member of the 82nd Airbourne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

He was discharged in 1987 and when the twin towers went down in New York City he enlisted in the National Guard.  Paulson was assigned to the 34th Infantry Red Bulls and drilled weekends at Inver Grove Heights.  He participated in the first Iraq War and was stationed in Granada and Panama.

On AM Minnesota Friday he shared that he and his wife are in the process of adopting 4 grandchildren.  The youngest is 2 years old.  Keith and Jenn have 5 children and still reside in Faribault.


Faribault Memorial Day 2019 Combat Veteran Honoree Keith Paulson. Photo provided by family.
Faribault Memorial Day 2019 Combat Veteran Honoree Keith Paulson. Photo provided by family.

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