I made two observations when I visited two different sections of the Fort Snelling cemetery last year: Section J (my friend Bob's grave, who was killed in Vietnam in 1967), and Section 30 (my parents' graves).
Section J contains graves mostly from 1967-68. Many are those who served in World War II, or even World War I, and thereafter lived a long life, many buried with their spouses. But quite often there are graves of those who served in Vietnam and died young, some as young as 18. (Bob was 20, and will always remain so.) Not buried with spouses. There were a few graves decorated with flowers of remembrance and flags, but not many. They died long ago — Bob's parents are also gone. Who is left to remember such people?
Section 30, on the other hand, is filled with graves of those who recently died (my parents included) and the field of graves is resplendent with colorful flowers of remembrance, and even flags too. They are, for the most part, older people who lived a long full life, or at least had the opportunity to. Many visitors are in attendance — even on a weekday, it's a busy place as people prepare to remember.
So the ages of those lost are vastly different, as is the evidence of remembrance.
I have recently had the opportunity to observe several high school sporting events. What a pleasure it is to see them: young people, strong healthy athletes, brimming with enthusiasm, filled with promise, exuberant, some 17 or 18 years old. They are the future.
In Section J I noticed the grave of Steven, born 1949, died 1967, less than two months after his 18th birthday. I concluded he must have volunteered for the Marines when he was 17. Who is left to remember? There were no flowers there. A search showed he died after 12 days in-country. A random walk up and down the rows revealed many 18- and 19 year-old soldiers. And they, too, will always be so.
I note another writer who pointed out that when we now gather with friends and family, those young men will not be there, nor will their children or grandchildren, or the contributions they could have made.
So here's to Bob and Steven.
James Strom, Eden Prairie
MERITS OF OUR HOME STATE
A Minnesota goodbye
Howard Root has a long list of grievances in his "Goodbye, Minnesota" commentary (Opinion Exchange, May 24), but starts exactly where you'd expect: money. He has better ideas for how to spend his than anyone else, particularly government. His overall tax rate near 50% may sound onerous to most anyone, until they learn that he's not just anyone. The Star Tribune reported his stake in the company he sold in 2016, Vascular Solutions, to be approximately $40 million. That chunk of money puts him in rare air indeed.
He concludes his commentary with an acknowledgment of the "excellent public education" he received in his home state, presumably some decades ago, but without making any connections between then and now. Had he done so, he could have shared that the generation paying for his public education was subject to a top federal marginal tax rate of 91% through the 1950s, and over 70% throughout the '60s and '70s. Back then, wealthy Minnesotans were asking local companies to match their generosity by directing a percentage of pretax profits to the public arena, not whining about tax rates.
In between, Root shares his beefs with local politicians and has some scary crime stories to tell you. He's a sharp enough guy to know that statistics are a powerful tool to understand complex problems, but he wisely avoids them in this case, because they don't tell the story he wants to tell. U.S. News & World Report ranks Florida and Minnesota essentially even in public safety, with Florida ranked No. 22 and Minnesota ranked No. 24. In the case of violent crime, however, Minnesota ranks 13th best, and Florida 26th.
It could have just been a day filled with regret and resentment for Root, in which case the lesson would be: Don't use those days to write to the paper. But this sounds far more deep-rooted and suggests it's indeed time to say farewell. After being subjected to all this grudge-nursing one's tempted by a signoff like, "Don't let the door hit you on your way out."
But that has a distinctly hard edge to it, something we all got plenty of in Root's letter. The occasion calls for something with a more folksy, Minnesota twist:
A lotta guys woulda skipped the commentary, Howard, and just left already.
John Ibele, Minneapolis
How very convenient for Root to pack up and move to Florida. That state is now a legitimately inhospitable place for me and others of the LGBT community to live — a place where homophobia will no doubt flourish under Gov. Ron DeSantis' gay muzzling law. Coupled with Florida's permitless carry laws, the Sunshine State has become a truly chilling environment. I consider the higher taxes here in Minnesota merely the premium I am glad to pay for the freedom to live without fear of backlash for my sinful "lifestyle" and the safety I feel with tighter gun control laws.
Jill Schwimmer, Minneapolis
Root's commentary paints the picture of wealthy retirees leaving our state due to the misguided policies passed by complete DFL control of state government. Without a change of course, I will represent the new class of home-based workers leaving as well. The COVID pandemic showed me that I didn't need an office to do my work. I took advantage and moved back home in 2021, but every day the DFL Legislature passed another piece of bad public policy made me question this decision. DFL legislators may think flight from Minnesota is a myth, but I can work from anywhere, and flying away will be easy. I'll give Minnesota one more election in 2024. If the state House flips in a big way, I'll know that my fellow Minnesotans see a change in direction is in order. If not, I'll be joining Root in Florida, Texas, South Dakota or any number of places that have replaced Minnesota as high-quality-of-life states.
Mike Amery, Hanover
I totally understand deciding to move to Florida to get away from Minnesota winters, especially when one is older and cold weather affects your health. However, I have a definite problem when the primary reason to move to Florida (or any other state with no state income tax) is to avoid having to pay income taxes on your retirement income. While you were a resident in Minnesota, you received an income tax deduction for contributions to your retirement plans — 401(k), IRA, etc. This deduction was an incentive to help you save for your retirement. It was structured as a tax deferral, as the income tax would be paid when you started taking money out of your retirement accounts. To now move to Florida, where there is not a state income tax, turns what was legally meant to be a tax deferral into a tax avoidance. This is wrong. If the money was earned while working in Minnesota, the tax due on the retirement distributions should be in Minnesota, regardless of where you might now reside. It would be very easy to monitor this, as the IRS requires annual statements regarding the account balances of all retirement accounts in order to properly calculate RMD. So, move to Florida for health reasons, but still pay the taxes on your retirement plans in Minnesota, where they are due.
Gary Edelston, Minnetonka