Memorial Day is a day of remembrance to honor American military members who died in service to their country. In Sheboygan, the 2018 Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony at Fountain Park was organized by Kohler Credit Union and its employees; they have done this since 2015. The 12th annual Lao, Hmong, and American Veterans Memorial Celebration was also held in Deland Park on Memorial Day.
The Memorial Day Parade began at 9:00 am on Monday, May 28 at 7th Street and Center Avenue and proceeded North on 7th Street to Superior Avenue, then West on Superior Avenue to 9th Street, and South on 9th Street to Fountain Park. Following the parade, the Memorial Day Program at the Fountain Park Band shell featured guest speaker (Ret.) LTC Conrad Barrows, US Army. Mr. Barrows is a Sheboygan native and graduate of Sheboygan South High School and Wake Forest and Lakeland Universities. He served on active duty and retired a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve after 28 years.
A brat fry at Fountain Park followed the parade. The brat fry benefited the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight which is a local nonprofit organization that honors veterans by flying them to Washington, DC to visit their memorials. As a result of this partnership, the event will now also honor our oldest living veterans. An Honor Flight is a way for the community to thank our World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans, and through the generosity of Kohler Credit Union and the attendees, will enable more local heroes to receive this gift. Kohler Credit Union partnered with several local businesses to make this year’s brat fry fundraiser a reality including Old Wisconsin, Johnston’s Bakery, Lakeside Pepsi, The Sign Shop of Sheboygan, and Just Orthodontics.
The annual Lao, Hmong, and American Veterans Memorial Day Celebration was held in Deland Park. The program includes the unveiling of new engraved panels on the memorial honoring Major Xiong Yang, Colonel Nengchu Saykao Thao, and Lt. Colonel Lycha Ly, Hmong Veterans who fought in support of the US Forces in the Vietnam War. The Memorial Day program will included a T-28 aircraft flyover by Paul Walter, T-28 Airshow Pilot and President of the Aviation Heritage Center of Sheboygan. The Ceremony included a pigeon release, presented by the Sheboygan Pigeon Flying Club.
The Hmong in Laos joined the fight in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The Hmong soldiers worked side by side with the American forces to repel the Communists. These specially trained Hmong pilots flew T-28 military training aircraft on bombing raids in tandem with covert American pilots, called Ravens. These Hmong pilots worked side by side with Americans who worked for the CIA flying the Secret War out of Laos. They taught the Hmong how to fly, flew with them, and fought in combat with them. The T-28 airplane fly-over is in recognition of that partnership.
Guest speaker at the ceremony was Capt. Neil Hansen, a former Air America pilot. Neil coauthored the book “Flight” with Luann Grosscup. It is a CIA pilot’s story of adventure, descent, and redemption, and how the Hmong people he had saved in turbulent Laos during America’s secret war ultimately saved him. This book is the basis for the play “Weird Flight” by Brad Radcliffe of White Rose Productions. The production will run at the prestigious John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, opening on August 10, 2018.
In Sheboygan, we are privileged to have a robust celebration on Memorial Day as we pause to remember and honor America’s fallen service members. Since the days of the Civil War, humble Americans have gathered together on Memorial Day to remember and pay tribute to all who have fought and selflessly surrendered the precious gift of life, so that others could live free.