Carroll American Legion honor guard posted the colors at start of the Memorial Day program in Carroll Cemetery.
Carroll American Legion honor guard posted the colors at start of the Memorial Day program in Carroll Cemetery.

May 30, 2018

During his service in the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, Ken Pingrey has become all too familiar with the ultimate sacrifice that members of the U.S. military may give for their country.

Pingrey, who’s served 28 years in law enforcement, including 18 years in Carroll County, the last two years as sheriff, focused on those who have given their lives in his featured speech at Memorial Day ceremonies Monday morning in the Carroll Cemetery. Pingrey has seen those losses hit home.

“These service members came from all walks of life, but they shared several fundamental qualities,” he said. “They possessed courage, pride, honor, determination, selflessness, integrity and dedication to duty — all the qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one’s self.

“Soldiers like Adrian Edward Hike, Shawn Andrew Muhr and James Alan Justice possessed these qualities. Adrian was killed in action November 12, 2007, Shawn was killed in action January 29, 2011, and James was killed in action April 23, 2011. All three were killed in Afghanistan. I vividly remember standing on the tarmac at the Carroll Airport and watching as the jets landed to bring these young men home. It’s a sight I hope to never witness again.”

Hike, 26, was a Carroll native; Muhr, 26, was from Coon Rapids; and Justice, 32, of Grimes, was born in Manning, and his family lived in Manilla.

Pingrey, member of a fifth-generation Coon Rapids family, noted that the military’s sacrifices for the country began with the Revolutionary War and continue today with those answering the nation’s call to duty.

“These brave individuals have selflessly laid down their lives to protect the freedoms that this great country was founded on,” he said. “These men and women are all, indisputably, heroes.”

He said of the service members, “Many of them didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. Many didn’t even volunteer. They didn’t go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect a nation that has given so much. These brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mother have left unfillable holes in families, communities and hearts across America.”

Pingrey and his wife, Julie, an agent at Coon Rapids Insurance Agency, themselves have two sons who have attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Will, a 2013 Coon Rapids-Bayard High School graduate, last spring graduated from the academy, majoring in foreign languages. He’s now a second lieutenant, serving with a tank division at Fort Stewart, Savannah, Georgia. Levi graduated from Coon Rapids-Bayard in 2014 and attended Simpson College in Indianola a year before moving on to the academy. He’s on course to graduate next May, majoring in civil engineering.

Monday’s scorching heat failed to deter a large crowd from attending the ceremony and viewing the parade from Southside to the cemetery beforehand.

Making the day even more challenging, sound-system problems at the cemetery forced speakers to move up to crowd, which was taking advantage of the shade from trees around the ring of war memorials.

Carroll Mayor Eric Jensen delivered the welcome talk.

“We’re here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage and their dedication and to say thank you for their sacrifices,” Jensen said. “Thinking of the heroes who join us in this group today and those are here only in spirit, a person can’t help but feel awed by the enormity of what we encounter. We stand in the midst of patriots and the family and friends of those who have nobly served.”

He added, “Your presence here today and that of the people gathering all across America is a tribute to those lost troops and to their families. It is a way to say we remember. From the soldiers who shivered and starved through the winter at Valley Forge to the doughboys crouched in the muddy trenches of France to the platoon who patrolled the hazy jungles of Vietnam and the young man or woman patrolling the mountains of Afghanistan and have fought for the liberation of Iraq, we remember and honor them all.”

Also at the ceremony, Kuemper Catholic Schools fifth-grader Nicholas Brower-Houlihan read his entry that earned first place in the Carroll American Legion flag essay contest. Nicholas is a son of Mindy Brower and Bryan Houlihan, both of Carroll.

The opening and closing prayers were given by Pastor Robert Wagner of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Lidderdale.

Boy Scouts raised the flag at the start of the ceremony.

The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute by the Carroll American Legion honor guard and playing of taps by Grant Halbur and Josh Tigges from the Kuemper Catholic High School band.