On Armed Forces Day, A Fallen Veteran Is Honored
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
They promised her they wouldn’t forget her brother, a Marine who was killed serving his country. They made good on their promise as men and women on 70 Harley Davidson motorcycles rode into Cottage Grove on Saturday, May 8, which was Armed Forces Day.
Dawn “Dee” Meyers stood in front of the home she shares with her husband, Darin, and their two children, Zach and Cameron, as she heard sirens from Cottage Grove police escorts followed by the rumbling of motorcycles.
Tears were welling up when she saw the group, all of them arriving to honor the memory of her brother, Adam VanAlstine, who was killed in 2006.
Dee and Darin had moved to Cottage Grove a year before Adam’s death. She was pregnant with her son. Her parents died, said Dee, who wears her brother’s military dog tags, as she is her brother’s only heir. She said she was so busy with funeral arrangements and making decisions at the time of his death, she didn’t have time to grieve.
When members of Tribute to the Troops visited her after her brother’s death, the hugs, many of them from people who’ve also lost family members to wars, were more than comforting.
“I started my grieving that weekend,” she said in an interview on Saturday. A year later, along with a former student at Eagan High School where Dee worked as a counselor, she started “Scoops for the Troops” and sold ice cream to benefit families of fallen soldiers. The group has grown and is now a large organization that raised $11,000 for education scholarships for families.
The Meyers, along with neighbors, family members and friends, were ready to greet the Tribute to the Troops members with refreshments.
Dee invited her friend Megan Epling to join her on Saturday. Epling’s boyfriend, at the time, was deployed. “She helped me understand that my sacrifice meant something,” Epling said.
Amanda Adams has a special bond with Dee because her husband was deployed at the same time Adam was killed.
After many hugs from Tribute to the Troops members, Rockie Lynne, a spokesman for the group, began to talk about Adam. He was in the third-grade in Superior, Wis, when he announced he was going to be a Marine. He was brave and tough, Lynne said.
A member of the group gave Dee a memorial coin in the name of Army Gen. John Vessey, appointed the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan and a coin from Soldiers of God.
The Meyers waved goodbye with gratitude as Tribute to the Troops members mounted their bikes and rumbled out of town. They were headed to Inver Grove Heights to visit the family of another fallen soldier.