For about a century, you can count on Pelican to honor vets

By Louis Hoglund

Navy veteran Randy Ebson, right, carrying the flag during Veterans Day observances Nov. 11.
PHOTOS BY LOUIS HOGLUND

Dead or alive, veterans were honored in Pelican Rapids Nov. 11—with a stream of red, white, and blue lining the boulevard.

The VFW club never forgets, and combined with the local American Legion, veterans know they can count on Pelican Rapids to appropriately recognize those who served—every Veterans Day and every Memorial Day. 

No matter when, where, what branch of service; past, present, and future; alive or gone—Rev. Eric Schwirian blessed veterans, and their families, in a special prayer prior to the Veterans Day dinner. A veteran himself and an Army Reserve Chaplain, Schwirian always stands ready to participate in veteran observances. 

The pastor of Pelican’s Trinity Lutheran Church prayed to give veterans and families “the comfort, strength, peace and healing to navigate through life.”

Among the entourage was World War II veteran—the only one—Marcy Korda. The Army nurse who worked the medical tents from North Africa to Sicily to Italy, is rarely absent from these special days. Her faithfulness continued Nov. 11, 2022—attending the observances through rain, sleet, and wind, at age 101. 

The air was brisk and the pavement slippery as the Pelican Rapids honor guard formed for Veterans Day observances Nov. 11 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars club.

Absent from the proceedings, Vietnam-era Wes Halbakken. The rural Pelican Rapids farmer took four years off from the fields for a “vacation” with the Marine Corps back in the 1960s. Over there, in Vietnam, he was wounded—twice. 

Wes just died, at 81. The Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient is unforgotten by his friend, neighbor, and fellow ‘Nam vet—Ole Anderson. 

These boys farmed together for a number of years, southwest of Pelican in Trondhjem Township. Wounded twice, Wes had the billfold in his back pocket blasted right off his butt, flinging it to the jungle floor, said Ole Anderson. Halbakken also rescued two fellow soldiers, carrying one to safety and pulling another guy out before he drowned. 

A veteran and Army Reserve Chaplain, including serving in the Middle East, Rev. Eric Schwirian delivered a prayer and blessing at Veterans Day observances in Pelican Rapids.
Since 1946, World War II Army Nurse Marcy Korda has been a rank-and-file presence at almost every Veterans Day and Memorial Day program in Pelican Rapids. She is pictured Nov. 11 with her daughter Rachael Gabe.
Pelican Rapids VFW Post 5252 commander Rudy Butenas.

It’s the Vietnam-era guys who now dominate the ranks of veteran organizations—as evidenced by the old soldiers gathered for Veterans Day.

Color guard member Carl Holt was on the younger side of the Vietnam conflict.

“It was the only lottery I actually ever won,” he laughed. “I had a very low number,” which meant the inevitability of being drafted into the Army. Fortunately, the action was winding down in Vietnam by 1971, and Holt was shipped over to West Berlin to stand guard on the borders of the Soviet empire. After his active duty stint, Holt served 24 years in the Fargo-based Army Reserve unit. 

The Pelican Rapids color guard and rifle squad, impressive with a complete unit of a dozen, were in formation for an outdoor ceremony prior to the veteran’s dinner. Dinners were also delivered to homebound and those at Pelican Valley Senior Living.