Updated: 05/26/2014 5:13 PM
Created: 05/26/2014 4:31 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
Bugles are playing at Memorial Day services across the Northland, but in West Duluth a World War II veteran was honored for his steadfast remembrance of fallen heroes.
A burst of rifle fire echoed around the veterans memorial in Gary New Duluth as nearly 200 residents gathered for Memorial Day.
Steve Balach helped lead the service, and the World War II veteran said he saw the sacrifice paid by the fallen during his deployment with the Navy.
“I was kamikazied in the Philippines, lost many of my shipmates and was fortunate to survive, but this has happened all over America so they should remember that somebody paid the price for us to enjoy today,” Balach said.
His service and later leadership in the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post helped him rally the community to remember the cost.
His daughter said he instilled the same values in his family.
“We think that recognition of service and recognition of community involvement and recognition of honoring the fallen by practicing your faith openly is all part of what America is about. My father is a true patriot, and that is how he raised us,” Joanie Balach said.
That dedication inspired Mayor Don Ness to proclaim May 26, 2014 as Steve Balach Day in Duluth. His neighbors rejoiced, but Balach was humbled.
“To me it was quite an honor because I just didn't expect them to name May 26. The only thing is when you don't expect it you're not overly prepared for it,” Balach said.
He was at a loss for words, but his daughter said the community's respect for her father and fallen veterans strengthens Gary New Duluth.
“This community will continue to thrive and represent what is best about America, and I have never forgotten my roots,” Joanie Balach said.
A younger group of residents has taken over the neighborhood memorial, and Balach is proud they are following in his footsteps.
“They're in good hands. They've done a great job to honor the Iraq veterans and the Afghan veterans,” Balach said.
More military heroes will pay the ultimate sacrifice, but Balach said they will never be forgotten in Gary New Duluth.
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