Cloquet veterans honored at small ceremony

The traditional Memorial Day service drew about 75 people to Veterans Memorial Park.

Bryce Moe (right), Jack Espelien (center) and Scott Sutherland lead the Cloquet Honor Guard into Veterans Memorial Park for a Memorial Day Ceremony Monday, May 31, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

After a morning of cool weather, the sun finally broke through the clouds as the Cloquet Veterans of Foreign Wars Honor Guard marched to their final ceremony Monday, May 31.

The group made nine other stops to honor veterans buried in local cemeteries and they were making their way to Cloquet’s Veterans Memorial Park for the traditional ceremony and flag raising in front of about 75 people.

On Memorial Day, U.S. flags are to be flown at half mast from sunrise until noon and then raised to the top of the staff to honor the nation’s combat dead.

Before the flag was raised, Cloquet Mayor Roger Maki thanked all veterans for their service to their country and spoke about his father-in-law, Cassius “Cash” Koepke. Koepke served in the Army during World War II, and Maki said he was captured briefly by the Germans before being rescued by a Russian soldier. Koepke was also among the U.S. soldiers to learn firsthand of the horrors of Nazi concentration camps as the Allies made their way toward Berlin in 1945.


Cloquet Honor Guard members Dapper Danielson (from right), Steven Birkemeyer and John Prouty march into Veterans Memorial Park for a Memorial Day ceremony Monday, May 31, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

After the flag was moved to the proper position, former Fond du Lac Reservation Veterans Service Officer Tom Whitebird spoke about his experience as a veteran in Vietnam and the way things have changed since his return to the U.S.

Whitebird said he traveled to basic training in 1968 with 58 other young men, but only two remain alive today.

“It was hard to talk up there — bringing up all those old memories,” he said.

The men he served with in Vietnam were his best friends, Whitebird said, but many returned from their service “shells” of the people that had been.

In the 1970s, Whitebird kept his military service quiet when he first returned from Vietnam because he was concerned about the reaction of those at home. Attitudes have changed since that time, though, he said.

Just a few weeks ago, Whitebird told the crowd about a little boy who tugged on his pant leg in a store while he was wearing a U.S. Army cap and thanked him for his service.


Cloquet VFW Commander Ronald Stigers (right) and Manya Toerey carry wreaths to honor fallen veterans during a Memorial Day ceremony Monday, May 31, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

After Whitebird finished speaking, Ronald Stigers, Manya Teorey and officers from the VFW Post 2979 and VFW Auxiliary laid wreaths at the monument at the center of Veterans Memorial Park and then retired for a quiet lunch at the VFW post in Cloquet’s West End.

Purity, a service dog for Cloquet Honor Guard member Scott Sutherland, rests on the brick at Veterans Memorial Park during a Memorial Day ceremony Monday, May 31, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

The Cloquet Honor Guard stands during a Memorial Day Ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park Monday, May 31, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

Cloquet Honor Guard commander Richard Chasse stands at parade rest during a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park Monday, May 31, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb /

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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