Famous artillery unit at Pelican VFW moved; will be displayed at Rollag Labor Day farm show
By Louis Hoglund
Gun silenced for decades, the immense Army-green cannon stood as a symbolic guard at the Pelican Rapids VFW Club.
Until August 9.
The World War II era Howitzer was an anchor at the veterans club’s memorial to those who served.
Quietly, with little fanfare and definitely no gun salute, the cannon was towed from its spot at the junction of Broadway and Highway 108 West.
The Egge construction crew, Steve and Dan Egge, hitched up the Howitzer and towed it away. Interestingly, the tires on the old Howitzer were even mostly inflated after all these years—so the cannon simply rolled out of the VFW parking lot behind an Egge rig.
It’s a three-phase move, spearheaded by Keith Bengston, who has been active in promoting the veterans salute at the Labor Day weekend Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag.
The cannon was trailered to Bengtson’s place west of town.
Then, it will be hauled to Rollag, which will be displaying various military hardware as its feature this year. Historically, Rollag organizers have had a “featured” brand or manufacturer. John Deere may have been the focus one year; Massey Ferguson the next; and Allis Chalmers another year.
But for the 2023 farm show, military hardware spanning a hundred years or more will be displayed—including the Pelican VFW Howitzer.
Bengtson will be hauling the cannon to Rollag, and when the Labor Day farm show is over—he will tow it back to Pelican Rapids. But instead of returning it to the VFW, the cannon will have a new home in the Veterans Memorial Park.
Through arrangements with the Pelican park board, the city, and the VFW, the Howitzer will be a new feature and centerpiece amid the landscaping of the Veterans Park.
Meanwhile, the VFW plans to revise its parking lot, with the additional space available following the removal of the cannon.
Veterans, public invited to join school staff for inspirational speaker disabled during Iraq conflict
By Louis Hoglund
Armed Services veterans are in the spotlight in the coming weeks—with a special Labor Day weekend in Rollag, and also with a special invitation from the Pelican Rapids Schools.
Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient John Kriesel, who lost his legs in Iraq, is speaking at the Pelican schools August 28—and the doors will be open to public, and to veterans.
“He has a great story on what he has been through and how he approaches life every day,” said Superintendent Brian Korf. Kriesel’s program is 10:30 a.m. at the Fine Arts Auditorium, and is in conjunction with the school staff workshops prior to the new school year.
“We’re inviting people in the community, and any veterans are invited to come and hear his story…This is a way for the school to engage with the community,” said Korf.
Meanwhile, veterans will also be in the spotlight at the Labor Day weekend Steam Threshers Reunion. This year, the feature at the Rollag farm show is military hardware—of all kinds and all eras. (See related story on the Pelican VFW cannon’s trip to Rollag.)
“Still standing. Still Smiling” is the inspiration message—and life theme—for motivational speaker John Kriesel.
Kriesel may have lost his legs and three close buddies in Iraq, but he came home with a powerful message of hope and living testimony to the value of a positive attitude to overcome any challenge.
His presentation Aug. 28 in Pelican will be a message for all—teachers preparing for a new school year, Pelican area residents, and Armed Services veterans. He shares his upbeat, motivational message with businesses and organizations throughout the United States. Among many other businesses and organizations, Kriesel has spoken for clients ranging from the Minnesota Wild to Target Corporation to Excel Energy.
Kriesel served as a NATO peacekeeper in Kosovo, eastern Europe, in 2004 before volunteering for deployment to Iraq.
On December 2, 2006 his team struck an improvised explosive device (IED), and he was not expected to survive. He died three times in the operating room, but 35 surgeries and nine months later, he walked out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He retired as a staff sergeant following ten years in the Army National Guard, receiving the Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and other awards.
In 2010 he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, but decided not to seek re-election when his family said they wanted to spend more time with him.
He is director of veterans services for in Suburban Minneapolis, a part-time personality on KFAN Radio, motivational speaker, and co-author of the book, “Still Standing: The Story of SSG John Kriesel,” republished in 2018 and winner of 8 national book awards.