WHITE EARTH, Minn. - After four years of searching and searching, Pete Fairbanks is finally satisfied with his White Earth Hall of Honor project.
"Some of these guys I researched for so long, I felt I knew them," he said.
The guys he's referring to are the men, and one woman, from White Earth Reservation who died in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
"This showcases everyone who was lost in war, that we know of," he said.
Fairbanks got started on the project about four years ago when he was talking to an elder who knew Fairbanks was interested in history. He visited the grave of a prisoner of war from Pine Point, and there was no flag at his grave site.
"These heroes should be remembered," he said.
Thus began his research project that is now on display in the White Earth Health Center, where Fairbanks is also employed. He has chosen all of the artwork on display in the health center.
During his research, Fairbanks said some information came easy and some not nearly as easy. Each man has their own story, and Fairbanks can recall each one of them, pointing out the interesting tidbits about them.
For instance, a World War II soldier, Fred Littlewolf, flew 50 bomber missions and then died during a training exercise. Another man, William Hole-in-the-Day, was too old to join the service in the United States so he joined in Canada. And Leo Beaulieu is the most decorated soldier in the display.
Showcased in individual display cases, each man - and one woman, Ellanora Beaulieu - has whatever information Fairbanks could find on them regarding their time in the service and where they are buried, a photo if one was found and the medals and patches of honor earned. Most of the medals were ordered from a company, not the original medals. Family members did donate some of them though.
Fairbanks started his research with a book from the Becker County Historical Society that lists World War II soldiers from the county. From there, he spent a lot of time searching the Internet.
"After four years of digging and scratching, I decided this must be it," he said.
To fund the project - the cases cost about $200 each, and there are 35 cases - Fairbanks said the Mii-gii-way-win Advisory Board gave donations three times. The advisory board is made up of tribal council members and Shooting Star Casino board members, he said. "Without them, I couldn't have done this. It would be too costly."
Fairbanks, who dedicated the project to his brother, said there isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't see someone stopping in the halls of the White Earth Health Center to look at the Hall of Honor.
So what project is next for Fairbanks?
"I think I retired," he said with a laugh, adding that right now he has nothing planned; he needs to take a break after four years of researching this project.
Maybe in time, he said he'd be interested in researching the White Earth Reservation women who have served. But that will be somewhere down the road.
"The whole purpose is to have these guys' names on the Wall of Honor. They're definitely all heroes," he said.
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