Fallen war hero honored
Major General Larry Shellito, head of Minnesota's Department of Veterans Affairs, was awestruck that tiny Park Rapids staged a "phenomenal tribute" to honor a fallen war hero that time nearly forgot.
Dave "Lefty" Anderson simply wanted the war hero to be recognized.
Friday afternoon nearly 200 people, vets, Patriot Guard members and family gathered at Greenwood Cemetery to honor Lloyd Cortez Hawks, an event driven by Anderson's desire to remember a man he never knew.
The monument was a tribute to Hawks, a Park Rapids son, winning the prestigious Medal of Honor in 1944 during combat. The wounded private helped rescue stranded fellow troops in a skirmish in Italy.
Ward and Shepherd Davis missed school Friday afternoon.
"I wanted my boys to see an American hero honored," father and veteran Chris Davis said, reading the wording on the newly unveiled monument to his sons.
The Dorset boys, along with a cadre of World War II vets, watched as the monument was dedicated bearing an etched photo of Hawks wearing his medal.
A retired flag was presented to Hawks' daughter Charlotte Hawks Kearn, who now lives in Hallock.
Hawks received full military honors as flag-waving veterans from numerous conflicts surrounded the gravesite in tribute to Hawks' actions that day.
The scorching afternoon was replete with rifle salutes, a bugler playing his heart out and white-gloved honor guards parading.
Kearn placed a single red rose on the monument and received dignified hugs from her military escorts.
Later at the Park Rapids American Legion, Shellito gave a poignant speech, admonishing the veterans in the crowd that "you can't keep your secrets."
He urged them to talk about and record their experiences for posterity.
"We can't ignore any vets, even the latest ones," Shellito said.
Hawks just happened to be a soldier "in the wrong place at the wrong time" who "had the same dreams and aspirations as you have," Shellito said. He didn't set out to become a hero, but simply rose to the occasion.
"It's a story that had to be told" Shellito said, nodding to Anderson in the crowd. "The legacy of Lloyd Hawks has to transcend a day," he added,
He urged his audience to be the disciples to disseminate the honor and duty Hawks exemplified.
Anderson thanked the family for its cooperation in helping get the monument realized.
"It took us 50 years to do it," he said.
"Dad was always a great source of pride for me," Kearn said. "This pulls it all together."
Phyllis Hawks Johnson remembers the ceremony 67 years ago when she placed the ribbon around her uncle's neck. Hawks, still on crutches and recovering from his wounds, had to bend down low so President Franklin Roosevelt, in a wheelchair, could place the medal around his neck.
Johnson remembers standing next to a man with "five stars on his uniform. I almost fainted," she recalled of the dignitaries that surrounded her.
The Park Rapids American Legion Club served dinner to hundreds following the ceremony.
Shellito urged young veterans to be more proactive in veterans affairs.
And, in true military fashion, he urged the audience to give those younger vets "a pat on the back, a kick in the rear" to get them motivated.
See a video of the day at http://www.ww2bji.org/