Generations thanked for service to nation Five-year-old Kira Westman holds her hands over her heart as her father, Bob Westman, salutes the flag during Monday's Memorial Day service in Vermillion. Westman is a member of the local VFW chapter. by David Lias Lt. Col. Reid Christopherson, standing among the monuments and flags of the Clay County Veterans Memorial Monday morning, felt like a lucky man.
"I feel very fortunate to live in this great nation, and to stand here in front of these wonderful monuments to reflect upon a day that embodies the concept of family and community in a nation," he said, "and a dream that's intermingled in those realities."
Christopherson, who gave the Memorial Day address to a crowd gathered in the warm sun shining on the grounds of the Clay County Courthouse in Vermillion, noted that his presence was made possible by earlier generations who pursued the American dream.
His great-grandfather, Andrew Christopherson, was born in Denmark in 1846. He served in the Danish Army at the same time that the Union and Confederate armies were engaged in a bloody Civil War in the U.S.
"Following that service, he came to the United States," Christopherson said. "He came to the United States in search of a dream, in search of a vision, of a hope ? of democracy, of freedom, and of that great ideal that awaited people in this land."
Andrew Christopherson first traveled to Wisconsin. In the spring of 1889, he called Clay County in Dakota Territory his home.
Shortly after the territory became a state, he farmed near Dalesburg, then near Lodi, and later, in Spirit Mound Township.
Reid Christopherson's great uncle returned to his family's European homeland while serving in the military during World War I.
Another family member, Darrel Christopherson, survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that launched the U.S. involvement in World War II.
A cousin, Lowell Christopherson, was taken captive during the Battle of the Bulge in Europe, and spent five months as a prisoner of war.
Reid Christopherson's father, Arnold, served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean conflict. A fourth generation of the family served in the military during the war in Vietnam.
Reid Christopherson began his 28-year military career after Vietnam. He was deployed as part of the Strategic Air Command, and served in Turkey and Panama, and the Persian Gulf.
His son, Andrew, a member of the fifth generation of Christophersons to serve in the U.S. military, wasn't present Monday for the Memorial Day services in Vermillion.
"He stands today on watch at Camp New York, Kuwait, as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The service continues from the roots that were planted by my great-grandfather who settled in Clay County," he said.
Christopherson said he told his family's story, because he knows it so well. "But if you take the time and you drive through BluffView Cemetery and you see the American flags and the markers ? you find that this is a story of families that make up a community," he said. "Many, many stories of these families come together and collectively make up the quilt that we know as our nation today, and that makes our community so strong."
Earlier this year, members of the Vermillion community watched as their loved ones who serve in the local National Guard unit were deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"We look forward to the day that the floor of the armory no longer echoes with squeaking tennis shoes of children at a family support gathering," he said, "but of the echoes again of the combat boots of those men and women as they return back to this community to stay prepared for service.
"There is a common thread of service," Reid Christopherson said. "A service to the nation, a service to the flag. There is a binding together that draws us together as comrades in arms. We serve for a common good."