Blue Earth County chooses first Outstanding Veteran honoree

Blue Earth County chooses first Outstanding Veteran honoree

GARDEN CITY Blue Earth County Fair's inaugural Outstanding Veteran honoree is a former Seabee who now has a big role in Mapleton's annual Snowflake Dazzle celebration.

Lanny Cox, 72, of Mapleton was nominated by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5338.

"When Dennis Urban (fair board vice president) asked me to look for a nominee who showed achievements in the VFW and commitment to community, I immediately thought of five candidates," said the post's quartermaster Jim Swanson. "Lanny plays Santa Claus on Main Street in Mapleton every year that was the tipping point.

"He's 6 foot 4 and he grows a white beard. The kids like to pull it to see if its real," Swanson said.

Saint Nick, aka Cox, helps out Mapleton Chamber of Commerce during its holiday promotion, Snowflake Dazzle.

He stays active in his VFW Post by placing American flags on veterans' graves and along Highway 30 for observances such as Memorial Day.

"Lanny is the first to volunteer to serve as honor guard at a vet's funeral," Swanson said. "To me, he typifies what it means to be a citizen-soldier from the Vietnam era."

The Blue Earth County Fair Board regularly plans programs for men and women who have served their country. This is the first year, however, it's sponsored an outstanding veteran ceremony, Urban said. He described the ceremony, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday on the main stage, as another way to bring military veterans out to the fairgrounds. After the outstanding veteran award presentation, two veterans are slated to speak.

Cox's wife, Kathleen, his daughter, Lisa Cox Kiebler, and his son, Joseph, will be among the attendees at Saturday's program.

"My son will be in the honor guard. He was in the Army during the first Gulf War," said Cox, who will be wearing his VFW hat pinned with a military ribbon indicating his service during the Vietnam War.

He served in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Seabees and was sent to Vietnam twice.

"I was in Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 121. In 1967-68 I was there for eight months. After a break of about three months I returned again for another eight months," Cox said. "We were north of Da Nang, near Hue the Imperial City during the Tet Offensive."

Cox was a member of a Bloomington VFW post before he and his family moved to Mapleton about 40 years ago. He is a past commander for Post 5338.

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