Forty-eight years ago, Korean war veteran Darwin Lussman was asked to help out the local Amvets Post on Memorial Day.
This Monday, he had finally given all he could.
As the guns roared three times in a Salute to the Dead, and the Colors were carefully stowed away for visits to the local cemeteries, it was time for the Commander to step aside.
"For the past 20 years I've been the commander of the color guard for Amvets Post #66, and I would keep on doing it if I could," he said after the well-attended ceremony on the courthouse green this Memorial Day. "But I've had diabetes for a long time now, and it's finally gotten to the point where I can hardly feel my lower legs. When I can't get around to do it, it's time."
At the end of his day's duties at the cemeteries, he officially reliquished his post to the next commander, Charles Roy of Storm Lake.
Over the years, the Amvets veterans have served their ceremonial purposes with the same sense of duty that many had shown in battle long ago. While the public may see them only on the patriotic holidays a few times a year, one of their missions is to ensure that local veterans who pass away are given full military honors. And nothing stands in the way of that duty.
"I should have written a book," says Lussman. "There have been some real experiences."
In one case, then men stood through such a deluge that they had to literally dump the water out of their boots. In another case, a blizzard tore off the top of the tent at a veteran's burial and froze their weapons solid; they stood fast.
There are 30 men who were currently serving under Lussman - as the group has grown older, it takes that many to be able to ensure a full complement of 13 for duty.
When it came time for Monday's Salute, one of the older veterans tried to get to his feet and slipped down. But, as they always have, his compatriots supported him. The casings flew, and youngsters came to collect them from the vets as souvenirs.
"We still have a few World War II veterans out here doing this, some from Korea, a couple from Vietnam," Lussman said. "They are a wonderful bunch of people, and I couldn't have done this at all without them. All glory and honor to every one of them."
Memorial Day was one full of glories and honors in Storm Lake, where most of the 877 Parade of Flags banners were flown at the courthouse before a crowd of around 300, rippling in the crisp breeze with their colors brilliant in the sunshine. Each represents a deceased citizen who has served in the armed forces.
There is no longer room to fly all of the flags, and the Parade of Flags committee plans to move some of the banners to the King's Pointe Great Lawn for future patriotic holidays so that all those tagged flags that are in appropriate condition can be seen.
This year's ceremonies enjoyed the added spirit of a performance by the vocal troupe A Touch of Broadway, which sang each of the military branch themes while holding their respective banners aloft for veterans of those branches to stand and be recognized.
Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, and to the sound of a drum roll, Robert Ohrlund read the dedications for the flags of servicepeople who have passed away in the last year.
They include: Edwin Madsen, Army Crp. Korea; Milton Rosdail, Army Tec-5 WWII; Paul Blair, Navy Seaman 1st class WWII; Gerald Wood, Navy Quartermaster WWII; Darold Veerhusen, U.S. Vietnam and peacetime; Paul Jones, Navy seaman 1st Class WWII; William Young Jr., Army Air Force Cpl. WWII; Dennis K. Johnson, Army Cpl. WWII; John Mahaffey Marine Sgt. Vietnam and Reserves; William Armstrong, Army Tec-5 WWII; Harold Statz, Army Sgt. WWII; Keith Wolf, Navy SK3 Vietnam; Charles Miller, Navy AS 1st Class WWII; Joe D. Conley, Army Tec-5 WWII; Clifford Keiser, Navy radioman WWII.
Guest Speaker was Karen Brophy of Alta, mother of Army Cavalry Scout Brian Botello, a young local soldier who lost his life in a roadside explosion in April of last year while on duty in Iraq.
She said that she was impressed with the patriotism the local community has always shown. She has come to peace with her loss, she added, knowing that "Brian is in a better place."
Tomorrow would have been his 21st birthday,
She and Brian's sister were able to meet many of the soldiers who served with him in Iraq, during a recent memorial service at Fort Carson. "I felt like I possibly gained some adopted sons," she said.
There are two kinds of American heroes, she told the crowd - those who gave their lives fighting for their country, and those who have fought for American freedoms in many ways, and continue to fight for them today.
Various patriotic and veteran organizations places wreaths at the courthouse flagpole, as the Parade of Flags, first assembled for Storm Lake's Centennial, celebrated its 35 anniversary.
As the crowd disbursed, the colors were everywhere, attached to the back of rumbling Patriot Guard motorcycles, cars, bicycles, baby strollers.
"It was a good day," Lussman said.