MSU President's Column for Traill County Tribune

May 30, 2020

Honoring those who have served and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice

We’ve just commemorated Memorial Day, considered to be America’s most solemn holiday as it honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. While this special day of remembrance in America had its beginnings during the Civil War, Memorial Day was not officially recognized nationwide until the 1970s, with America deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War.

Reflecting on Memorial Day and the Vietnam War, makes me think of a special member of the Mayville State family, Melville Albert Lurth, Jr. I’ve just recently learned about “Buzz,” as Melville was more affectionately known.

Buzz was a Mayville State student from St. Peter, Minn. who was drafted to fight with the Army in Vietnam. Those who knew him say he was an all-around great guy. He played football for the Comets and was someone his teammates, fellow students, and the young people in town looked up to.

One of those then-junior high school boys from Mayville, Duane Rindy, said, “Buzz always looked his best and was always friendly to all of us kids in the neighborhood. He would joke with us and throw the football around some too.”

John Fylling, Buzz’s college roommate has fond memories of his friend.

“I got to know Buzz through Mayville State football and the weight room. We became good friends right off the bat! Buzz had a very positive attitude, was always kind, caring, and considerate, and he had a great laugh and was just fun to be around.”

Melville “Buzz” Lurth was killed in action on June 8, 1969. He died by enemy mortar fire at his base camp.

Remembering that harsh reality, John Fylling said, “I cried, not just for the loss I felt, but for his mother, father, and siblings who would have to live with this pain. Over the years, I have often thought of Buzz and realized what a blessing he was to me for the short time we had.”

You can learn more about the life of Buzz Lurth in Mayville State’s Memorial Day tribute to him at

You’ll see a tribute to Buzz Lurth at the Mayville State University Military Honor Garden. Friends and teammates of Buzz have donated a beautiful bench placed in the garden in honor of Buzz and all American soldiers killed in action, prisoners of war, and those missing in action.

Another bench in the Military Honor Garden was donated by Dixie and Larry McGillis, Portland, N.D., in honor of Dixie’s dad, Edwin, and his six brothers, all who served in World War II, and all who came home to Edmore, N.D.

The Military Honor Garden features a life-sized bronze eagle in flight sculpture, flags, night lighting, and gardens. All five branches of the military are represented on the granite centerpiece on which the eagle sculpture stands. This beautiful and meaningful project is a tribute to Mayville State employees, students, and friends, and community men and women for their patriotic service in America’s Armed Forces. The intent is to honor anyone who has served in the military. Those honored definitely can be, but do not have to be, Mayville State alumni.

Martin Johnson, 1966 Mayville State graduate and USMC Corporal, and Lieutenant General Emil “Buck” Bedard are heading up the Military Honor Garden project. These men have worked hard to ensure that the Military Honor Garden is an extra-special and meaningful tribute to those who bravely served, and continue to serve, to uphold our country’s liberty and freedom.

Many people have made gifts of $500 or more to the project so that they can have the name(s) of their loved ones engraved on granite plaques that are incorporated into the memorial walk. In addition, the late Valorie Brown, Cavalier, N.D., donated the amazing bronze statue depicting a life-sized bald eagle in flight in memory of her husband, David G. Brown, a 1971 graduate of Mayville State who passed away several years ago.

I encourage you to stop by the Military Honor Garden, located on the south lawn of Mayville State’s Edson and Margaret Larson Alumni and Leadership Center, to pay tribute to all of the military veterans honored there. These brave men and women have sacrificed a lot, and some have sacrificed all, that we may enjoy wonderful lives of freedom as Americans.