Gold star mothers recognized during Onalaska Memorial Day ceremony

Monday marked the 150th Memorial Day, a national holiday on which we remember those who have died while serving our country. Over the years, seven Onalaska residents have been killed in combat.

Vivian Turner remembers her son Michael as having a lot of friends and a good sense of humor.

“He was a cartoonist. He loved to draw cartoons,” said Turner, during the Onalaska Memorial Day Parade.

Since Michael had not known exactly what he wanted to do, he decided to join the Army.

“He was not one to skip his duty. He wanted to be a helicopter pilot and that’s where he went,” Turner said.

Michael Turner was killed by sniper fire during the Vietnam War. Not long after, Kathryn Kirchner’s son John planned on joining the military.

“He just wanted to serve his country and do something useful with his life, I guess,” Kirchner said.

When he decided to enlist, she asked, why the Marines?

“They get into the full battle and everything. So why not some other service. But he said, ‘Well, that’s what I wanted,” Kirchner said.

John served for just one year before he was killed, 49 years ago. For Turner, it’s been 50 years this May since her son died. Right after his death, she participated in her first gold star mother parade.

“How could I not? How could I not?” Turner said.

Kirchner felt the same way.

“It’s getting a little harder as you get older and have a few health problems, but it’s the least we can do,” Kirchner said.

They both said we need to remember the real purpose of today, as not simply a day off from work.

“That’s what everybody looks at it [as]. ‘Have a nice holiday.’ That’s not what it is to me,” Kirchner said.

And we can recognize those who put their lives on the line each and every day.

“If you see a soldier, say ‘thank you’,” Turner said.