Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Millville's flag guy makes sure flags fly on Veterans Day

By Janet Kubat Willette
jkubat@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 11/14/2013 8:15 AM

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MILLVILLE, Minn. — Come 6:30 a.m. on Veteran's Day, Glenn Becklund will be putting flags atop the Wabasha County Veterans Memorial Bridge.

It usually is veterans who put up and take down the flags, but it doesn't have to be, Becklund said. "Everybody's welcome."

Becklund owns Becklund's Auto Repair and Towing just steps from the bridge over the Zumbro River.

The bridge was completed in 2009, replacing a green bridge that had spanned the river since 1939. Becklund walked over to take pictures of the bridge every day it was under construction.

On one of those walks the thought came to him that the bridge was so beautiful it should have a name. The name that came to him was the Wabasha County Veterans Memorial Bridge.

He broached the idea at a meeting of the Millville Valley American Legion and the other members thought it was a good idea. A couple went to the county board and got permission to name the bridge. They also got permission to put up the flags.

A grand opening celebration was held on Aug. 15, 2009, complete with politicians, an honor guard and high school bands.

The Millville Valley American Legion borrowed 35 flags from the Zumbrota Veterans of Foreign Wars to adorn the bridge for the occasion. Becklund used duct tape to secure the flags to each post.

The flags are no longer attached with duct tape. Rather, Becklund made brackets specifically designed for the Wabasha County Veterans Memorial Bridge. They are tucked away in little pull-behind wagons in a storage shed, along with the flags, which are carefully stored in plastic to protect them.

Becklund measured spacing between the flags — he thinks they're 11 feet apart, but he can't recall for certain — and drew on the bridge in black marker. Volunteers use the lines as guides when putting up the flags.

A farmer from Zumbro Falls, Dallas Adams, paid for all the brackets and flags that are placed on the east side of the bridge, Becklund said.

All the American Legions, VFWs and American Legion Auxiliaries and VFW Auxiliaries in Wabasha County contributed money for the rest of the flags, brackets and for flag upkeep, Becklund said.

It takes about half an hour for the 10 or so volunteers who normally show up to put up the 75 flags, 36 on the down river side and 39 on the upriver side. The three additional flags are a Minnesota flag, POW-MIA flag and a U.S. flag that fly from the middle of the bridge.

The flags fly until 6:30 p.m., when volunteers return to take them down.

Four flags stay on the bridge at all times — a U.S. flag and POW-MIA flag fly from each end of the bridge.

Becklund, 74, said he's become the "flag guy" simply because he's closest to the bridge.

Aside from Veteran's Day, the flags also fly on holidays and special occasions. A family may request the flags fly for the funeral of an area veteran. In those cases, Becklund likes family members to help set up the flags.

Becklund served in the Air Force and Air National Guard from 1957 to 1963.

"I was lucky I got in between wars," he said.

Becklund was stationed stateside.

A Twin Cities native, he and his wife, Judy, an Oak Center-area native, moved to Millville in 1980 when they bought the garage and towing business.

He'd been an American Legion member for years, but didn't become active until 1989.

"From June 1989 to now, I'm proud to say I've never missed a meeting," Becklund said.

Most people aren't active. They have 130 to 140 members in their post, but only eight or nine attend most meetings.

The important thing about the American Legion is the voice it brings to Washington, D.C., on behalf of veterans, Becklund said. The American Legion needs to speak for veterans in the nation's capital so veterans aren't forgotten.

The best way to honor veterans is at the ballot box, he said.

"I think No. 1, elect people who will honor and respect the Constitution."