Hundreds of people gathered in the pouring rain at Fort Snelling National Cemetery for the annual Memorial Day observance at the state's largest military cemetery.
The cemetery is home to nearly 180,000 graves, dating back to the Civil War. Service members continue to find their final rest there, even decades after they fell on the field of battle.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, one of this year's speakers, noted the recent burial of U.S. Army Sgt. Eugene Yost, killed in September of 1950, when his unit was overrun by North Korean troops. Remains recovered from the area in 1951 were buried in Hawaii and disinterred for identification in 2017. Yost's family got word last year that the remains were his.
Yost was buried at Fort Snelling in October.
"A service his younger sister had waited 68 years for," Klobuchar told the crowd. "He was 18 years old when he left his family farm in Milaca, joined the Army and shipped out to fight in the Korean War. He went missing one day, and when no body was found, he was declared dead. But his niece made a promise that she would find him, and she did."
Army Major General Jody Daniels gave Monday's keynote, and described another Korean war casualty from Minnesota, Army Lt. Col. John U.D. Page, who was mortally wounded as he helped troops battle their way out of the infamous encirclement at the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. He won the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor for his bravery and leadership in combat.
Gov. Tim Walz, himself a veteran, noted that the ceremony comes just before celebrations marking the 75th anniversary of the landings on D-Day. "Democracy is not a fair weather sport," Walz told the crowd in his first address as governor. "Democracy is not for the faint of heart. Democracy was paid for with that sacrifice and our responsibility, the living is to conduct ourselves in matter befitting their sacrifice. Treating our neighbors with respect, making our government work and function, debating with a sense of dignity and respect and the ideals that they died for."
Cemetery officials also displayed a replica of the Tomb of the Unknowns, a landmark at Arlington National Cemetery. The replica was commissioned for the national cemetery in Minnesota this year to provide a place for wreath-laying near the graves of 280 unknown service members. The poor weather did cancel some recent honors, like a flyover by a B-25 bomber.
The Fort Snelling Memorial Rifle Squad was on hand despite the rain, marking its 40th year of firing salutes to veterans at the national cemetery.