OSAGE -- A hardy crowd of relations and friends braved wind chills of 10 below zero to attend a dedication ceremony on Veterans Day afternoon to honor James D. Fairbanks of Ponsford, the first Native American to serve as force master chief in the U.S. Navy Seabees.

The first road dedication in Becker County assures that everyone driving out to Ponsford and the Pine Point community, where Fairbanks grew up, will see the memorial road sign on County Road 26 (formerly Highway 225).

The Monday, Nov. 11, ceremony was held on a hill adjoining the highway, as flags representing the various branches of service whipped in the wind. A drum circle opened and closed the ceremony, which included a review of Fairbanks’ distinguished career and a reminder that freedom is never free, it was paid for by the many men and women who sacrificed for their country.

Tim Fairbanks was there for the road sign unveiling ceremony Monday, honoring his late brother and celebrated veteran James D. Fairbanks. He is pictured with James' great niece Maizie Mcarthur. (Lorie Skarpness/Forum News Service)
Tim Fairbanks was there for the road sign unveiling ceremony Monday, honoring his late brother and celebrated veteran James D. Fairbanks. He is pictured with James' great niece Maizie Mcarthur. (Lorie Skarpness/Forum News Service)

Fairbanks was described in the ceremony as “a native son of Pine Point and Ponsford.” Born in White Earth, he grew up in the Pine Point community and was a 1970 graduate of Park Rapids High School. He served in the military for more than 28 years, including during the Vietnam, Gulf and Iraq wars. He earned 42 awards and ribbons, including the Bronze Star.

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Dave Coalwell was one of seven members of the Lake Region Veterans Color Guard based out of Detroit Lakes who came to the ceremony. In addition to knowing some family members, Coalwell said he believes it is important to come out to honor a fellow veteran.

“Jimmy did a good job for his career. He did well,” he said. “I never met him, but it was an honor to perform for the dedication to honor this veteran. We were there to say ‘thank you.’”