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Remembering the fallen at Memorial Day ceremony at Cottage Grove's Veterans Memorial

Cottage Grove resident Larry Clatt was emotional Monday during the city's inaugural Memorial Day event at Veterans Memorial. Clatt was a friend of Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV, who was killed less than a mile from him in Iraq in 2009. Wilcox's life was remembered during the ceremony. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)1 / 10
Members of the local American Legion Post 98 attended the city of Cottage Grove's inaugural Memorial Day Ceremony Monday at Veterans Memorial on the grounds of City Hall. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)2 / 10
Dozens gathered Monday outside Cottage Grove City Hall to participate in the inaugural Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)3 / 10
Members of Park High School's Air Force JROTC presented the colors Monday during the inaugural Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial outside the Cottage Grove City Hall. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)4 / 10
Park High School's brass quintet and choir, directed by Thomas Storm, performed the “Star-Spangled Banner" Monday during a Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial outside the Cottage Grove City Hall. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)5 / 10
Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey held a bouquet of roses Monday during a Memorial Day ceremony outside City Hall. The roses were placed on the various military branch markers and given to the mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)6 / 10
Members of the Cottage Grove Fire Department watched silently Monday as the city observed Memorial Day outside City Hall. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)7 / 10
U.S. Sen. Al Franken spoke Monday at the inaugural Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial in Cottage Grove. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)8 / 10
Charlene Wilcox accepted a rose from Cottage Grove City Council member Derrick Lehrke Monday during the city's inaugural Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial. Wilcox's son, Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV, was killed in Iraq in 2009. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)9 / 10
A rose was placed on each represented branch of the military Monday during the city of Cottage Grove's Memorial Day ceremony outside City Hall at Veterans Memorial. (Bulletin photo by Emily Buss)10 / 10

A sunny, 80-degree afternoon greeted dozens of local military personnel and their families, area residents and local and national dignitaries Monday during the city of Cottage Grove’s inaugural Memorial Day ceremony at Veterans Memorial.

Built on the grounds of the new City Hall, the memorial remembers the lives of the men and women — both in Washington County and throughout the country — who have died in combat.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., spoke to the crowd gathered at the event following his speech at Fort Snelling. Franken, a participant of USO tours to the Middle East, said he was honored to have been part of the city’s first-ever ceremony at Veterans Memorial.

“This is a day to remember all those that have served our country and it’s all about those Americans and America,” Franken said. “I’m heartened by this show of respect from this community.”

The mother of a local military police officer killed in combat five years ago said she too felt the respect and support from the community during a ceremony which honored Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV.

“He was just wonderful,” Charlene Wilcox said of her son, an medic who died at age 27 in Basra, Iraq.

On July 16, 2009, Carlos’ base was attacked by what his mother said was “indirect fire.” Four members of his unit were hit and three did not survive, including the Tartan High School grad.

A half-mile down the road that day was Cottage Grove resident Larry Clatt, an Army 1st sergeant in the 34th infantry regiment military band. Clatt, who knew Carlos and his unit, played “Taps” at his military funeral in Basra.

“It was a tough day and they were just kids,” Clatt remembered.

The somber afternoon also included speeches from Steve Campos, retired Air Force chief master sergeant and president of the Washington County Yellow Ribbon Network. Campos, who spent 35 years in the military, said the inaugural event at Veterans Memorial is the first time he has stayed in the area on Memorial Day.

“Usually I am at the state headquarters for the yearly ceremony so it’s nice to be able to have an event right in my own backyard,” he said.

Park High School’s Air Force JROTC presented the colors while the brass quintet and choir, directed by Thomas Storm, sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Members from the American Legion Post 98, St. Paul Park, ended their day-long tour of local cemeteries at Veterans Memorial and honored fallen military personnel with a 21-gun salute.

“I’m really overwhelmed by the support from this community, but it shouldn’t be surprising,” said Jen Peterson, Cottage Grove City Council member and member of the local Beyond the Yellow Ribbon committee. “It’s nice to be a part of something like this and it’s a chance for us to remember those lives and remember together.”

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