By MaryHelen Swanson
As the National American Legion celebrates its 93rd birthday, the North Branch American Legion Post #85 proudly brings the 87th Midsummer Days to the folks of this area and visitors from far and wide.
The fun starts Wednesday when the Legion Auxiliary opens its food stand and the carnival lights go on at Central Park.
A highlight of this annual event is the grand parade on Sunday. Each year, hundreds of people from all over line the streets of North Branch to watch as the color guard steps off in front of a marvelous array of bands, floats, clowns and novelty units.
Right behind the color guard comes the Grand Marshal, waving and inviting everyone to enjoy the show.
This year the Legion has chosen a Korean War era veteran, who is a community leader in many ways, to ride in that special convertible. His name is Syl Marking. You might remember him from earlier this year honored as the North Branch Lions Community Service Award recipient.
The North Branch American Legion chooses a Grand Marshal each year, number one, because they are a veteran, and because they are well known in the community, and for all the things they do for that community.
Marking serves the North Branch community through his church, Trinity Lutheran, and through the Lions, extensively. But he served his country in the early 1950s in the Army.
Drafted at 19, Marking completed his 16-week basic training at Ft. Riley, Kansas. That was in ‘53 and he was mustered out in ‘55.
Sent to Japan, he went through heavy equipment school and then served 12 months with the 434th Engineer Battalion in Busan, South Korea, where they built and paved roads. After that year the operation was given over to the Republic of Korea army.
Following that year, Marking said, “most of us became infantry” close to the 38th parallel. One-third of their training was done at night. In the infantry, Marking was a machine gunner.
The trenches and barbed wire were all still in place, he said, and there was a feeling that you never knew when that war was going to break out again.
In all, Marking was in Korea 16 1/2 months.
From Korea, he went back to Japan where he got on a troop transport (ship) with about 1000 other soldiers and came back to the states. He left from and returned to Seattle, and he said, it was raining both times.
Marking said he never regretted his time in the military. War time or peace, he said, it’s a chance to serve your country.
When you go into the military, he continued, you either come out more mature and stronger or go the other way.
Communication during the Korean War was significantly different than today, with e-mail, Skype etc. It was done exclusively with handwritten letters that didn’t arrive overnight. Marking said he wrote a lot and received a lot.
His fiance was waiting for him and he for her. Shortly after he got back from Korea, they got married. That was 56 1/2 years ago when he and Marcie tied the knot.
Now on Sunday, June 17, be sure to wave to Syl Marking as he rides by at the beginning of the parade. And if you get the opportunity, thank him for what he did for our country and for what he continues to do for our community.
The NB American Legion will again bring you a Midsummer coronation. Formerly the pageant produced a Miss North Branch and her princesses. Today, the program chooses three young women as Ambassadors to represent North Branch as outstanding representatives of our community as they attend events throughout the state all year.
The 2012 Midsummer pageant will be held at 6:30 Friday, June 15 under the big tent in the parking lot by the Legion.
Under that same tent you can enjoy bingo, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as well as karaoke and dancing to live music.
It’s for the kids
Saturday morning, the NB Legion sponsors the annual Kiddie Midsummer Olympics at the high school athletic fields. Fun stuff for kids preschool to age 12. Starts at 9 a.m. sharp!
And the VFW Auxiliary will again sponsor the Midsummer Kiddie Parade starting by City Hall, registration is at 10:30, parade steps off at noon. The theme is “Red, White and Blue.”
And, yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch, and it will be provided by the NB Legion along with the NB Chamber of Commerce, and several local businesses. That will also happen under the big tent by the Legion Hall beginning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.