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Marine's memory honored with flag presentation

Marine's memory honored with flag presentation
Dave and Kay Swenson accept an honor flag in memory of their son, Marine Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson, who was killed two years ago in Afghanistan.

Today marks two years since Marine Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson , of Rochester, was killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb.

His parents, Dave and Kay, will remember the date privately. But on Sunday, a large group gathered at Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial , where a personalized " Honor and Remember " flag was presented in Swenson's memory.

"I've talked to over 70 (soldiers') families now, and there's two things that bother them the most — that they (the soldiers) would be forgotten and that they died in vain," said Mike LaBelle, director of the Minnesota chapter of Honor and Remember , a national campaign to ceremonially recognize armed forces members who died in service to their country.

The organization honors not only people killed in battle, but also soldiers who returned home emotionally traumatized and took their own lives, LaBelle said. He counts 115 such casualties of war in Minnesota since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He has a flag set aside for every one.

"Hopefully, we don't have to buy any more," LaBelle said — not because of the $350 price associated with each handmade flag, but because of a wish for no more war deaths.


Swenson's is the 74th flag presented to a Minnesota family during the past two years, LaBelle said. Three other Honor and Remember flags were presented at a ceremony on Saturday. Flags were also presented to the families of Army Pfc. Tony Hebert of Lake City, Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Benson of Winona, and Military Police Spc. Travis Bruce of Rochester.

"It's not just about Curtis," Kay Swenson said before the ceremony. "It's about all our families, all our fallen."

Honor and Remember, a national organization based in Chesapeake, Va., seeks to have its flag officially recognized by the federal government and 50 states, on a par equal with the special POW/MIA flag that memorializes prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.

Twenty-two states have adopted the flag, LaBelle said, but Minnesota is not among them. One day, "hopefully every state and federal building will be flying this flag," he said.

Swenson's death still pains his parents — it's part of the cost of their diligent work to keep his memory alive.

But a sweet side to it, Kay Swenson said, is the world of devoted friends they've developed — a group that includes 30 motorcycle riders who rode to the Sunday ceremony from the Twin Cities. They're members of Tribute to the Troops , a group that brings emotional and financial support to families who have lost a member in war. The Swensons are members now, too.

Her son gave his life, Swenson said, but "he gave us all of you as well — all of these wonderful people who have come into our lives."

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