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Memorial Day is a time for remembering and sharing stories

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MORRIS, Minn. - Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring veterans, those who have served as those who are still at war today, Morris City Manager Blaine Hill said during his Memorial Day address at Morris' 2012 Memorial Day program at the National Guard Armory on Monday.

Hill is a veteran of the Minnesota National Guard, served with the Morris unit for 15 years, including as commander. Hill retired from the Army in 2010 after serving in a non-combat leadership and training capacity for more than 33 years.

"I'm a little older now, a little bigger now, and obviously have traded my uniform for civilian clothes; however, I bleed Army green and I always will," said Hill.

Although this address isn't his first speech on Memorial Day, Hill said that since he last spoke he has learned new stories about his father's experiences in World War II as an Air Force pilot who flew B-24 bombers over Germany during the war.

"It doesn't take much to know and understand what war is about now, and certainly everybody has seen it and been a part of it," said Hill.

But there are still stories to discover and be told about what the experience of war is like.

Although Hill knew his father - Bennie Hill - was stationed at a base in Norwich, England, while he served, Hill didn't know many details. A posting on an Internet message board led him to a second author, Marilyn Jeffers Walton. Hill and Walton's father served together in England.

In Walton's book, "Rhapsody in Junk," she wrote about a devastating plane crash in which an entire flight crew - save one - was killed after their plane was hit in three sections. Hill's father, who was blown free of the plane during an explosion, was the only survivor. He was badly burned and captured by German soldiers, but cared for by Catholic nuns until he was liberated.

"My dad spent many years recovering from his injuries, and the rest of his life dealing with the tragedy of losing all nine of his crewmates," said Hill.

Hill encouraged those in attendance to remember all service members who had been killed in action, and those who returned home.

"Today is a day for remembering," Hill said. "Today is a day to honor those brave souls that gave the ultimate sacrifice. Today is a day to thank them for their service to their county and for protecting our freedom. There's no pedestal higher than the place we put them on."

"Keep in mind that even those that make it home still struggle with what they went through," said Hill. "War is never, ever easy, and sometimes we forget that very fact."