Somber day, so here’s a somber photo

gwot_memorial_27961After our camera club’s meeting this morning I decided to poke around to find a photo that would benefit from the gloomy day.  I didn’t have to look far, as I soon spotted these flowers left at the Global War on Terrorism Memorial over at Fraine Barracks.

Somber, cloudy days are often good time for reflection; the rain and bleak skies just seem to set the mood perfectly.  On such a day, should one be at a loss for something to ponder, consider those who have sacrificed their lives for our country.

Still mourning Gentleman Wade


I miss Gentleman Wade Westin, a man who personified the term for which he was known. Fond memories of Sunday nights at the Chinese restaurant, or ribbing him about being the world’s nicest guy, or watching him on stage in the Medora Musical. He passed away four years ago today. It was an absolute privilege to have been his friend.

I met Wade when he joined our production staff at KFYR-TV back in the 1990s; since then I’ve had many noteworthy memories, even though our opportunities to see each other grew farther and farther apart. Guys get busy, you know…that’s just how it goes. I wish it wasn’t so. A while before his passing, Wade and I met up at Taco del Mar and chatted it up about what we’ve been up to, fatherhood, and that kind of thing. We even talked about a possible project we could collaborate on, an idea I relished. That’s the last time I got to spend time with Wade.

When we worked at KFYR-TV together we did a commercial for a furniture or mattress store, one where Wade played a guy who snuggled in under the covers of a comfy new mattress. It took a while for the nickname “Snuggly” to wear off. I had a printout of that shot somewhere in my souvenir box, but in my search for it tonight I came up empty handed. Bummer.

The photo above was from the Medora Musical on my honeymoon trip with my wife. I’d booked front row center tickets of course, planning a Medora weekend on our way back from a week in the middle of nowhere back in my beloved Rocky Mountains. We drove past the turn to Wade’s home near Grenora, ND and it prompted me to call his cell phone and say hi. When he heard we were coming, he arranged the VIP treatment and a backstage tour for us, and we got to chat with him and his family briefly before he left to prepare for the night’s show. He then congratulated us during the show. That’s just the kind hearted, generous guy that Wade’s friends will all remember.

We used to hit the China Wok restaurant in Mandan on Sunday evenings, striking a friendship with the owners over time. When their visas came up for renewal, Wade took it upon himself to get his friends from the Sunday night dinners to sign testimonials to aid in their renewals.

It’s a shocker to have a friend and fellow family man snatched away so suddenly and so early. Of course one tries to make sense of it, but there’s no sense to be had. What we can do is take comfort in the message from his CaringBridge page: “Thank you for your love, support and prayers. Wade is at peace with God His Father and Jesus His Savior in the healing presence of the Holy Spirit.” The Bible talks about a peace that passes all understanding…I pray for that peace for his family and everybody who misses Gentleman Wade.

I have a copy of a TV commercial Wade did for KNDX (Channel 26) back when they first went on the air. It was a “dance contest” making fun of contestants with the numbers of other local TV channels. It features Wade being Wade. I attached a brief tribute at the end. It isn’t much, but it’s a token of my respect for a friend. The music is a portion of “In the Sweet By and By” performed by my friend Sarah.

I know there are lots of people out there who are touched by Wade’s passing as they were by his personality. Hopefully this will trigger some of your best memories as well.

Looking back at one of the most memorable Memorial Day addresses I’ve heard UPDATE: Now with text of his address available for download

Let’s not forget that Memorial Day is about one thing: honoring fallen heroes who died defending our freedom. I typically attend the ceremony held for such purpose at the Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery each year, the most memorable of which was in 2010. It was during that ceremony that I witnessed a stirring address by C. Emerson Murry, former Major General of the ND National Guard. He was the keynote speaker of the event, and a very memorable one at that.

The words that struck me the most from his keynote address are best paraphrased as follows: “To be born free is an accident. To live free is a responsibility. To die free is an absolute obligation.” That made me set my camera in the grass and hastily type it into my phone so I wouldn’t forget it. Maj Gen Murry fulfilled that obligation, and it’s due to such men and women of our armed forces that we enjoy the freedoms we take for granted.

The National Guard provided me with the text of his remarks in PDF format from an issue of the Guardian magazine, and I’m pleased to be able to provide you a link to that PDF: (Click Here)

It was the last chance I had to hear him speak; Maj Gen Murry passed away in September of that year. You ought to take the time to read about the life of this remarkable man by clicking here.

Peace Officers’ Memorial Ceremony 2012

Yesterday marked the date of the Peace Officers Memorial ceremony here in North Dakota. It’s held annually at the monument on the capitol grounds in honor of law enforcement officers who have perished in the line of duty. Most years it is a solemn look back at distant history…this year it was a reflection on the tragic losses of two officers within the past year. I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said, so I’m just going to share a few photos and let them do the speaking.


Standing at attention


Heartfelt thanks and condolences by Attorney General Stenehjem and others


Wreath presentation before the memorial


21 gun salute


Two names added


I’ll gladly admit that I’m a tireless cheerleader for law enforcement personnel here and all across our great nation. Some of them give it all in the line of duty, and this memorial honors that sacrifice. The national memorial ceremony is next week, and since there are two North Dakota families traveling to attend that ceremony, the North Dakota commemoration was moved to this week. Next week is Law Enforcement Week here in North Dakota and all across the USA, so please take any opportunity you get to thank them for their service on our behalf.

9/11 Ceremony at the state capitol grounds

I spent the afternoon at the commemorative ceremony at the capitol Sunday. It was an appropriate memorial of the terrorist attack on our nation (not just a “tragic event” as some say) and focused on honoring our nation as well as those who have died in its service. Here’s a brief photo narrative of the day:


Governor Jack Dalrymple and his wife Betsy hosted the event.
 


The Mandan High School Concert Choir provided stirring music, with my friend Becca at the piano.
 


US Senator John Hoeven gave his remarks.
 


US Congressman Rick Berg also spoke.
 


Bismarck City Commissioner Mike Seminary represented the City of Bismarck.
 


Mandan City Commissioner Dennis Rohr. Of course, I’ll always know him as Chief.
 


The Governor and First Lady stand with Senator Hoeven during the presentation of a wreath to commemorate the day. Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley is looking on in the foreground.
 


Bismarck Police Chief Keith Witt spoke on behalf of first responders.
 


Lincoln Police Officer Marcel Sim gave an account of that day,
when he was working at Ground Zero for the NYPD.
 


Maj. General Spry has thousands of soldiers fighting not only the Global War on Terrorism
but also natural disasters here at home.
 


Lt. Colonel Dean Eckmann described going to battle stations and flying CAP sorties
over Washington DC that day with the NDNG Happy Hooligans.
 


Jenette Nelson spoke of the loss of her daughter and how her memory lives on.
 


Paul Goodiron gave perhaps the most stirring speech of the day, honoring not only those who serve but also the families who serve with them and endure their loss.
 


The Patriot Guard Riders had a presentation of their own to the office of the Governor.
 


First responders from fire, ambulance, and local law enforcement were in attendance to commemorate the day as well. I got to hang out with one of my favorite law enforcement friends and take photos.
 


One popular part of the day was a Blackhawk helicopter on the capitol mall, available for all to see.  Its crew were on hand to answer questions and explain the operation of the aircraft.
 


Then it was time to go home, tribute given and memories shared.

Late visit to the National 9/11 flag

Back in mid-August the National 9/11 Flag made a stop in North Dakota as part of the organization’s mission to visit all fifty states. There was a ceremony and even the opportunity for folks to nominate someone in advance for stitching the flag. I made an appeal for folks to nominate Sgt. Steve Kenner with the PD choosing representatives on his behalf. Apparently some of you did, because that’s precisely what happened. I received an email from the organization saying that they received a lot of nominations on his behalf.

Sadly, I had to work and wasn’t able to see the ceremony, but I did get a chance to visit the flag (and put in a stitch of my own) prior to its departure. Here are a few quick photos for those of you who weren’t able to attend.

Patches from the other states who the flag has already visited are marked by standing cards giving a little bit of information about the state’s participation.

Here’s the area where North Dakota’s patch is located and where the stitches were applied.

One stitch at a time, they say. This is actually the top edge of the flag. I believe the patches come from retired flags which have flown in North Dakota.

One patch in particular goes almost unnoticed, but someone from the organization pointed it out to me as “the Lincoln patch.” It’s hard to see from the edge of the flag, but thanks to a 300mm lens, I can give you a closer look:

If I recall correctly, this is a patch from the flag which was draped over the casket of President Abraham Lincoln when he was buried. How’s that for a piece of history?

I suppose it’s somewhat appropriate timing to finally post this on the weekend of the tenth anniversary of that fateful day. It wasn’t my intention, I’m just late as usual. You can find out more about the national 9/11 flag by clicking here. You can read the program from the ceremony in Word format by clicking here (maybe I can convert it to PDF later).

Nominate Sgt Steve Kenner as a Service Hero on the National 911 Flag website

Update:  You can read Sgt. Kenner’s nomination by clicking here.

The New York Says Thank You Foundation is sending a National 9/11 Flag around the country to have it stitched back to its original format after being damaged during the terrorist attacks ten years ago. Commemorative patches are sewn on in each state. This flag will be in Bismarck on August 12th and they are looking for nominations of local service heroes to help stitch the flag.

Click here to visit the Nominate a Service Hero page on the national 911flag.org website, and you can do what I did: nominate the Bismarck Police Department on behalf of Sergeant Kenner.

Fill out the form with your information and a description of what Sergeant Kenner’s service and the Bismarck Police Department mean to you. Tell them that you wish to ask the Bismarck Police Department choose a representative to participate on Sergeant Kenner’s behalf and in his memory.

For “Their email” you can enter “bismarckpd@nd.gov” and for “Their phone number” enter “701-223-1212”. That will ensure that inquiries from the organization reach the Bismarck Police Department.

Here’s a link to the poster for the event (PDF): Click Here

Here’s a link to the press release for the National 9/11 Flag (PDF): Click Here

Spread the word, let our local law enforcement know that we stand with them, and help honor a local hero!

Bismarck bids another sad and unexpected farewell

The city of Bismarck has lost another member, one who served not only in the Public Works department but also as a state senator and leader. Services are being held today for Senator Bob Stenehjem, the senator from my district. If you live in south Bismarck, chances are he was your senator too.

Condolences to the Stenehjem family and the many others…family, friends, coworkers, and fellow legislators who will feel his loss.

Bismarck says goodbye to a local hero

Hundreds of area citizens joined hundreds of law enforcement officers on Thursday for a memorial service honoring slain Sergeant Steve Kenner of the Bismarck Police Department. The number of people attending, uniformed and civilian, was larger than any local church could hold.

Mayor Warford gave remarks honoring Sgt Kenner’s service, saying that his stature as a man was paralleled by his stature as an officer and member of the community.

Chief Witt expressed that even now he’s learning of things Sgt. Kenner did in this community that touched the lives of Bismarck citizens, things that nobody knew he did until the letters began pouring in at the Police Department over the last week.

Back when I was just a kid hanging out at the police department control room at any opportunity, Craig Sjoberg was one of my favorite officers. He also offered his personal recollections of Sgt. Kenner.

I was encouraged at the sight of many of my fellow citizens who came, like me, to join in support of all those grieving. Things like this make a fella proud of the community…

Just as the sight of people lining the streets along the route of the procession. It was an emotional thing, seeing people slowly arrive and display flags, flowers, even handmade signs of support. When the procession began, despite the number of people waiting at this intersection, downtown Bismarck was SILENT. It was a very moving experience.

One reason why Bismarck enjoys a low crime rate is because of its professional police department and officers like Sergeant Kenner who risk their safety to protect ours. Another is because of a community that will band together in support of those officers. People lined Fifth Street, Main Avenue, the Memorial Bridge, all along the route to the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery. I was told that afternoon by people who were in the procession that the show of the community was amazing and really meant a lot.

I put together a little video of part of the procession with the audio of A Hero’s Last Call. This audio was among the most stirring things I’ve ever heard, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the Civic Center as it played.

Bismarck surely has suffered a tragic loss, one I hope we never forget. What can we do to help honor the memory of Bismarck’s lone fallen police officer? I think I have an idea:

Update:  You can read Sgt. Kenner’s nomination by clicking here.  (see below for background)

The New York Says Thank You Foundation is sending a National 9/11 Flag around the country to have it stitched back to its original format after being damaged during the terrorist attacks ten years ago. Commemorative patches are sewn on in each state. This flag will be in Bismarck on August 12th and they are looking for nominations of local service heroes to help stitch the flag.

Click here to visit the Nominate a Service Hero page on the national 911flag.org website, and you can do what I did: nominate the Bismarck Police Department on behalf of Sergeant Kenner.

Fill out the form with your information and a description of what Sergeant Kenner’s service and the Bismarck Police Department mean to you. Tell them that you wish to ask the Bismarck Police Department choose a representative to participate on Sergeant Kenner’s behalf and in his memory.

For “Their email” you can enter “bismarckpd@nd.gov” and for phone number “701-223-1212”. That will ensure that inquiries from the organization reach the Bismarck Police Department.

Here’s a link to the poster for the event (PDF): Click Here

Here’s a link to the press release for the National 9/11 Flag (PDF): Click Here

Spread the word, let our local law enforcement know that we stand with them, and help honor a local hero!

Flying at half-staff for Sergeant Kenner

I took my little boys out for a bicycle ride on the Memorial Bridge last night and took in the sight of the flags flying at half-staff per Mayor Warford’s declaration. It’s been moving to see the outpouring of support for Sergeant Steve Kenner since some worthless piece of crap gunned him down on Friday.

A Facebook page has been set up for people to pay their respects and it already has over three thousand fans. That goes to show the kind of community we have, where people rightfully hold dear the men and women who risk their safety to protect ours.

One thing that makes this so infuriating is the fact that Sgt. Kenner has been a well-known part of Bismarck for decades. Anybody who was a teenage driver within the last thirty years knew of Officer Kenner. In fact, he was an expert in traffic enforcement and, as a young motorcyclist, that’s how I encountered him most frequently.

I remember sitting at a red light with FOREVER on one of my motorcycles many years ago, late at night, with Officer Kenner (he made Sergeant in 2000) behind my friends and me in his patrol car. I let the light go through a few cycles without turning the light green in the left turning lane which I occupied, looked over my shoulder at Officer Kenner to convey my intentions, and looked back ahead as I proceeded through the light. Naturally I saw red strobes in my mirrors a few seconds later!

Since I used to build the type of inductive loop sensors that the traffic signals used when I worked at the DOT, I knew that the one beneath my bike was unaffected by the large amounts of aluminum, titanium, and magnesium in the motorcycle. They’re not very effective on these sensors. I explained my case to Sgt. Kenner and he agreed with my explanation, and we parted ways. I thought that was quite fair. Then he wrote up one of the guys I was riding with for not having proof of liability insurance.

I read in the Tribune that Sgt. Kenner performed a lot of noteworthy feats in his career, saving lives and performing rescues. He received many commendations and awards, as the newspaper and TV articles will tell you…but he was more than that. He was a part of Bismarck that you just always expect to be there. Then along comes some good-for-nothing jackhole who, for no reason at all, takes him from us. I’m being as careful as I can with my words because I’m very angry, and clearly many others in our community are as well.

I’m sure there will be many things said in heartfelt remembrance of Sergeant Steve Kenner, I think the most meaningful I can articulate is what I said above: Sergeant Steve Kenner had a PLACE in this community. Only he could fill it. You didn’t have to know him personally to be glad that he was in that place, and you don’t have to have known him personally to be furious that his place is now occupied only by his memory.

It’s no secret that I’m a passionate advocate for local law enforcement. I’ve participated in ride-alongs, had the privilege of attending the Citizens’ Police Academy, I was a first lieutenant in the Mandan Police Explorers youth club and spent lots of time helping in the control room of the Mandan LEC before leaving for college. I have a great deal of respect for the men and women who serve in law enforcement, and I pray for them daily. I encourage you to do the same; don’t let it take a tragedy like this to get you to that point.

As we offer prayers on behalf of Sergeant Kenner’s family, let’s remember the others who mourn his loss as well as those who continue to serve on a daily basis to keep our communities safe. They work long, hard jobs dealing with people you and I would loathe or fear, and they do it without recognition. Please give them your support daily as they continue to perform their duty even in the shadow of this terrible tragedy.