When U.S. Army veteran David Drews retired, he looked up his Army unit — the 199th Light Infantry Brigade – and started going to reunions every year. Up until then, he hadn’t shared much about his time in the service. “Years back, I never talked about it. That changed when I started going to my Army reunions, and us guys would start talking about different things. I think a lot of Vietnam veterans have been doing that now,” the St. Anthony resident said.
Drews served for a year in Vietnam in 1969, and then 10 months in Cambodia, where his unit patrolled the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a military supply route running through Laos and Cambodia. Drews was wounded when a mine blew up in front of him.
Four years ago, he felt compelled to commemorate Veterans Day in a way that would remind others of what the nation honors Nov. 11. He bought flags – Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard – and hung them in his St. Anthony Pkwy. front yard, between two flagpoles, each bearing the American flag. “Being in the service, you meet different military, and you’re always kind of kidding around – ‘I cleaned up your mess in Vietnam’ or something like that – but you know, we were all one team,” Drews said.
Each year, Drews tries to improve his display. He had seen whirligigs with insignia on them at the State Fair and had a number of them made with his unit’s name on it and shared them with his fellow infantrymen at reunions, saving one for his display. He added a statue of a fallen soldier and hopes to play military music someday.
That’s not the only way he observes the day. “Veterans Day is a big thing for me. I lost a few good buddies in Vietnam and one guy was killed in front of me in Cambodia,” he said. That fellow soldier was from Victoria, Minn. His sister got in touch with Drews after the war, and they’ve been close since. Drews visits his cemetery lot every year on Veterans Day and Memorial Day. He also attends the annual Veterans Day assembly and reception at Andover High School.
Below: David Drews’ Veterans Day display grows larger every year as he remembers his fellow service members. The whirligig at left acknowledges his Army unit, the 199th Light Infantry Brigade. (Photos by Karen Kraco)