Minot AFB Honor Guard helping area community

Submitted Photo Minot Air Force Base’s Honor Guard will present the colors at a memorial service honoring fallen veterans on Saturday at the McKinney Cemetery, shown here, near Tolley. Because of a shortage of Legion members to provide the colors, the cemetery association asked for help from Minot AFB for the memorial service.

TOLLEY – For over 80 years an annual memorial service has been held at the McKinney Cemetery located 2 miles north and one and a half miles east of Tolley. Each year local American Legion Posts have had sufficient members to provide a color guard to support the service.

Due to a shortage of available Legion members, the McKinney Cemetery Association reached out to Minot Air Force Base for assistance this year and the Minot AFB Honor Guard readily agreed to present colors at the memorial service on Saturday. The service will honor 50 veterans – buried at McKinney Cemetery (31), Trinity Lutheran Cemetery (6), Hamerly Lutheran Cemetery (6) and St. Charles Catholic Cemetery. (7).

The Minot AFB Honor Guard provides military funeral honors to Air Force veterans across a 54,000-square-mile area of responsibility in North Dakota. Their program is a 100 percent volunteer force, comprised of over 30 active-duty airmen from Minot AFB. Aside from funeral honors, the Minot AFB Honor Guard participates in base and civic events, providing color teams, sword cordons, POW/MIA ceremonies, parades and more.

The memorial service to honor fallen veterans will be held Saturday at 5 p.m., and is open to everyone. An identification sign will be at the turn-off on Highway 5. In case of inclement weather, it will be held at the Tolley City Hall.

The memorial address will be given by recently retired Lt. Col. Thomas “Forrest” Stayer. Stayer served as the 5th Operations Group deputy commander at Minot AFB. He has flown numerous combat missions in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, totaling 721 combat hours. He is a command pilot with more than 3,500 hours in the B-52H, F-15D, F16D, T-38A, T-37B and KC-135R.

Founded around 1886, McKinney Cemetery is nestled along the Souris River on three acres of land. It was certified as a historic location by the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 28, 1978. The nomination for historic status identified the cemetery as the oldest cemetery in Renville County. The cemetery was dedicated on June 22, 1913, according to the June 20, 1913, The Tolley Journal. Just outside the cemetery fence stands the log cabin built by Frank Swenson in the 1890s and restored by the Wildlife Refuge. The McKinney Cemetery Association was first organized on July 20, 1911. Current officers are Martin Irgens, president, David Stark, vice president, and Loretta Bucholtz, secretary-treasurer. Many volunteers assist with caretaking and upkeep.