In the days before Veterans Day, in a hallway at Mason Brothers Company in Wadena sat a table with a setting for one, but a place for all those missing in action or those prisoners of war.
Above it are pictures of 85 members of the armed forces that either were employed or are employed there, or are related to someone working there. For the visitor to the business, it's impossible to walk by without slowing to glance over the many faces of every branch. Take just a few more steps and there's a nearly floor to ceiling group of photos that can stop you in your tracks. It's photos and names of all those lost in active duty in 2019, at a time when you'd think America's troops should be free from major threats.
This tribute to troops of past and present started in 2017, according to Mason Brothers human resources director Roland Gilbert. Gilbert retired from service after 20 years in the United States Navy. He said the tribute started out smaller but has grown year-after-year in an effort to show the company cares about the many men and women who have or are still serving.
"We're always looking to do more, to have more impact," Gilbert said.
As he daily meets with prospective employees he said those stepping through the doors see first hand the support the company has for veterans. Gilbert is eager to add more veterans to the staff, like Mason Brothers buyer Alison "Ziggy" (Ziegler) Larrimore.
Larrimore, a native of Staples, came to the company after she served in the United States Air Force. Larrimore said she had the urge to serve as it's been a part of her family for many years. Her uncle Chad Dickey, of Wadena, was a member of the Green Beret.
She joined the service in 2008, heading to basic training in Texas, then on to the Grand Forks Air Base, where she met her husband, Alan. Alan was from South Carolina, but quickly fell in love not only with Alison, but also the Minnesota/hockey way of life.
After Grand Forks, Larrimore was stationed in Florida. Her husband served in Afghanistan for nine months after they were wed.
She said she felt called to serve and regrets not being sent out to combat like her husband was able to experience.
"I wanted to go," Larrimore said. "But they needed me too bad stateside. I wanted to go real bad."
"I think when you go in, that's just something you have to do, you want to do your part," Larrimore said. She said even those who had a terrible experience still feel like they should be there helping the cause.
Larrimore served her team well in her positions. She came in originally as a dental technician and eventually helped evaluate those with traumatic head injuries. She has a frame in her office at work showing all the medals she was decorated with, mainly for being a great leader. She was eventually called to step into a drill sergeant roll, but declined. Instead she uses her leadership skills back here in Minnesota. She talks about her service with a yearning to return to it.
She and her husband have continued to serve veterans in one way or another since getting out. One way in particular is through a program called Hometown Heroes Outdoors, which offers hunting and fishing excursions for veterans as a way to offer outdoor trips made to benefit the veteran.
Larrimore, who ended her service as staff sergeant, looks to enjoy Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11, at her daughter's school in Staples, where she will take part in a Veterans Day program at the High School at 10 a.m.