For Harry Niemela, Memorial Day is for reflection and remembrance for those he served with during the Vietnam War.
“To me, it means remembering and honoring those that gave the ultimate sacrifice and their lives,” the veteran said. “Never coming home again to have their own lives, to see their families, to have children, grandchildren, the things that we almost take for granted but shouldn’t. To me it’s a day to remember fallen veterans.”
Niemela will share his thoughts as a speaker at Chaska’s annual Memorial Day services, Monday, May 27 in City Square Park.
The day will begin with local commemorations with a series of short ceremonies by American Legion Post 57 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1791 honor guards at area cemeteries.
The first stop will be at 7:30 a.m. at the East Union cemetery, continuing to St. Nicholas, Mount Hope, Guardian Angels, Chaska Moravian and Mount Pleasant, before concluding at the St. John’s cemetery at 9:30 a.m.
Following cemetery visits, there will be a 10 a.m. Memorial Day parade in downtown Chaska, which begins on the west side of the SouthWest Metro Intermediate District 288 building, and ends at City Square Park.
A ceremony will take place in the park at the conclusion of the parade, where Niemela will speak.
Niemela was the first person in his family to serve in the U.S. Army, when he was drafted in 1967. He served until 1969 after his tour was extended. A soldier from a small Minnesota town, Niemela went on to serve as an assistant machine runner, a tunnel rat and a radio operator.
Niemela was awarded the Purple Heart medal and bronze star for his bravery.
Today, Niemela lives on a farm between Chaska and Waconia and is involved in the Honor Squad and as an auditor at VFW Post 1791. His daughter, Cara Hobbs, a local Realtor, served in the National Guard for eight years.