Memorial Day
WILL KINCAID/Tribune AMVETS member Doug Webber plays Taps at the Memorial Day Disabled American Veterans ceremony in Bismarck. WILL KINCAID

The name of Dennis “DJ” Ferderer Jr. stands alone on the Morton County Courthouse memorial.

He is the only soldier from Morton County to have died during the War on Terror.

“We can’t bring him back but hope and pray that there’s no more that have to be added to this list,” his mother, Dina Ferderer, said.

His name was added to the Morton County Courthouse memorial with a rededication ceremony Monday.

DJ Ferderer was one of many veterans remembered on Memorial Day, the federal holiday set aside to remember veterans who have died, those missing in action and prisoners of war.

“As it goes, it’s getting easier,” DJ Ferderer’s father, Dennis Ferderer, said. “The first year was rough, and the second year a little easier. And this year, she’s (my wife is) with me, so little easier again.”

The Ferderers have another son in the military. John has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan through the Air Force.

“They could be killed in a car accident tomorrow or die of a heart attack tomorrow. When it’s our time, it’s our time,” Dina Ferderer said.  “It gives you a few more gray hairs.”

DJ Ferderer enlisted in the Army his senior year of high school.

He was killed in 2005 at the age of 20, when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle in Iraq.

Richard M. Longfellow’s name also was added to the memorial. Longfellow received the Medal of Honor in 1899.

“When I worked at the treasurer’s office, I was always impressed how many people stopped and took the time to look at this wall of honor,” said Jean Siegel, who has a son in the Marines.

The day began at 8 a.m. with a 21-gun salute at Memorial Bridge.

“What’s so impressive about this is when you think about the folks who have gone into combat. Many come back scarred, injured and handicapped, and others don’t come back at all,” said Dave Peterson of Bismarck, who was in the National Guard and was on active duty in Army.

The day continued with the rededication ceremony and ceremonies at the Heritage Center, the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery and the Fraine Barracks War on Terrorism Memorial.

DJ Ferderer’s name also was read during the ceremony at Fraine Barracks.

James Avard of the Patriot Guard led the first ceremony for North Dakotans who died during the War on Terror. He served two tours during the Vietnam War.

“For me, for a Vietnam veteran, never again are we going to let happen to our veterans what happened to us when we came home,” Avard said.

It’s important to thank all the veterans, men and women, Stephanie Belohlavek-Geiger said.

She was the keynote speaker at the Heritage Center ceremony. She served in the Marines for more than five years and was stationed in Hawaii during the Gulf War.

“I never did. We (women) never talk about (our service),” Belohlavek-Geiger said. “It’s something that most women just don’t do.”

Gov. John Hoeven, Sen. Kent Conrad, Rep. Earl Pomeroy and Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk spoke at the Heritage Center and cemetery ceremonies.

“We must not forget their service, and we must pay them the respect,” Conrad said.

He signed a brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court pushing for the protection of military funerals.

The case involves members of the Westboro Baptist Church out of Kansas who protest at military funerals. The family of a Marine sued the group for protesting at his funeral.

Members of the church say the military deaths are punishment for the country’s stance on rights related to homosexuality.

Judy Burns attended the ceremony at the cemetery in memory of her husband, Richard Burns, with her daughter and grandson.

At least one member of the family has attended since Richard Burns died five years ago.

“We love coming out, seeing all the flowers and flags,” Judy Burns said.

Richard Burns served in the military from January 1972 to December 1973.

He died before the birth of his grandson, Ricky James Otto.

“It’s important to remember what these people did for us,” Richard Burns’ daughter, Cris Burns, said.

“It seems like so many people think it’s just a holiday, a day to go shopping, have a picnic or something,” Diane Peterson of Bismarck said.  “It seems like this gets pushed into the background, and it’s really sad.”

(Reach reporter Emily Coleman at 250-8256 or emily.coleman@bismarcktribune.com.)

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