Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - As a fellow veteran, Duluth Honor Guard officer and U.S. Navy veteran Larry Kubiak says the passing of Durbin Keeney is fresh on his mind this Memorial Day.
Keeney died at the beginning of May, just weeks before the national holiday.
"What a sad thing when the time came for him to leave us," said a somber Kubiak in Duluth's American Legion Post after the parade Monday.
Kubiak says it was hard for fellow vets to keep track of all the deeds Keeney did in the name of veterans' rights over the decades.
"One's that are homeless, and there are homes for them now to help them," reflected Kubiak, "he praised the veterans."
These actions, say Kubiak, culminate into what he considers Keeney's biggest feat: attaining respect for vets--something Keeney himself wasn't granted by the public at the time when he came home from Vietnam.
"Without Durbin the veterans wouldn't have the wonderful notoriety today," said Kubiak.
While Keeney's memory lives on in Monday's parade, Kubiak says Keeney would be the first to remind you that Memorial Day isn't about him.
Rather, may veterans say its sole purpose should be honoring the memories of those who never made it home from the battlefield.
"There's not enough of us that say thank you; I'm very proud to be one of them," said Kubiak. "So many of them, without hesitation, went ashore–as an example, on D–Day–and they gave up all their tomorrows so we could have all of ours."
83–year–old Quartermaster 3rd Class U.S. Navy Veteran Raymond Leland, who still fits into his original uniform, says those ultimate sacrifices are the reason we're free to have a 3–day holiday with friends and family.
"I grew up with three fellow who were Marines," said Leland, "and they all got killed on the same hill—Porkchop Hill, North Korea."
Leland never considered himself a fighter.
"If I have to fight, I'll fight for American freedom, and an American way of life," said Leland.
...honoring our fallen heroes.
Durbin Keeney was 65 when he died, following a complicated surgery.