by Michael Smith
It was a touching ceremony…but a fitting one.
Given that the Wabasha Bridge spans a mighty river, is the longest bridge in the area, and connects two states, it is fitting that it will now carry Sgt. Michael Clickner’s name for as long it stands. The Interstate Bridge here was dedicated Saturday as the Michael Duane Clickner Memorial Bridge in a solemn ceremony in Heritage Park, under the half-mile long span that connects Wabasha to Wisconsin.
Twenty one-year-old Sgt. Michael Clickner was serving in Vietnam in April of 1970 when he was killed in action, and is believed to be the only Wabasha native to die in that conflict…the longest war in American history. He was serving his country, bridging two cultures, trying to make the world a better place for a people he knew little of, but knew as victims of oppression, of a many-years’ conflict, who were facing potential Communist rule. He was part of a decade-long effort that, sadly, resulted in 58,000 American deaths, including his own.
And families of those 58,000 soldiers, like those of Sgt. Clickner’s grieved.
While the healing process certainly has waned through the many years for the Clickner family, as it has for the thousands of others families, the pain a nd sense of loss likely never goes away…although the pain was no doubt comforted somewhat on Saturday. Sgt. Clickner was being remembered…and honored.
State Senator Matt Schmit of Red Wing called the dedication “one of the most meaningful things I have done in my career.” He then read the proclamation (see accompanying) for the dedication.
On the stage under the bridge, Wabasha resident and veteran of the 173rd Air Brigade, Floyd Riester read Sgt. Clickner’s biography and Mayor Rollin Hall, serving as Master of Ceremonies, also paid tribute to Sgt. Clickner.
Beneath the bridge, its powerful span casting shadows over the grounds on this mild, sunny morning, a crowd possibly numbering between 200 and 300 people had gathered to pay tribute to their friend, fellow soldier and hero. They stood in respectful silence, listening to the tributes and often thinking of their own loved ones now serving their country, perhaps overseas and perhaps doing so while in harm’s way.
The black granite stone resting in the flower garden near Main Street that is Sgt. Clickner’s Memorial (and which is shown on Page 1), was then unveiled by Legion Post 50 Commander Bill Hager and VFW Post 4086 Commander Don Hager.
Following a Processional, led by members of area veterans organizations, including Post 50, Kellogg Legion Post 546 and VFW Post 546, Elijah Hager played Taps.
The ceremony was complete—a lunch followed at the Post 50 Clubrooms—but the dedication wasn’t, as many in the crowe lingered, often embracing…talking,…and remembering.
A family, and a generation of Baby Boomers and Vietnam Veterans, had been given a long overdue honor…a thank you, if you will…and it was fitting.
It was indeed a touching ceremony.