New flag pole honors veteran

Courtesy Photo Members of Ed Blahnik’s family stand by the flag pole that was placed in his honor at Bark River’s downtown park on the Fourth of July.

BARK RIVER — The Bark River American Legion and Lions Club kicked off the community Fourth of July celebrations by honoring a veteran and resident who passed away last November with a dedication ceremony for a new flagpole in the downtown park.

The flagpole was made possible through a contribution from the family of Edward Allen “Ed” Blahnik, a Vietnam veteran, dedicated serviceman, and community member who passed away in November of 2016 following a battle with brain cancer.

According to Irene Blahnik, Blahnik’s wife, they decided to place a flag in his honor because he held a high regard for love of the country, the American flag, and Pledge of Allegiance were of the highest value to him.

“He believed in the flag and it meant a lot to him,” said Irene.

The flagpole features a plaque noting who it is dedicated to, explained Irene, adding the local Boy Scout troop is looking to place three solar lights around the flag to make sure it is lit up at all hours.

During the ceremony, Irene said the American Legion, Lions Club members, and family were there to commemorate Blahnik and his love of country and community.

Blahnik grew up on a dairy farm in Ashland, Wis. On Oct. 15 1965, he was drafted into the U.S. Army to serve in Vietnam where he was a member of the Company B 53rd Signal Battalion.

While there, he earned the Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam ­Company Medal and National Defense Service Medal. He was honorably discharged on April 11, 1967.

Throughout the years after his service, Blahnik was dedicated to giving back to the Bark River community, said Irene, adding that even though he had many health issues in his life, he pushed it aside and put others first.

“Anyone who needed anything, he was right there,” she said.

Some of his most notable accomplishments were being on the board of director for two years for the Knights of Columbus, secretary of the Kiwanis Club, Holy Name Society Secretary and also holding various positions in the Lions Club, including King Lion and secretary.

Blahnik was an avid Lions club member for 20 years and a recipient of the prestigious Phil Anderson Award in 1998. Irene explained that this award is voted upon by active and non-active Lions members and is comparable to the “most valuable player award.”

Within the Lions, Blahnik also served on the off-road race committee, senior center community project, and was on the E-Board, which is the “top dogs” of the Lions club, said Irene.

On top of everything, Blahnik was also Adjutant of the American Legion and was the lead in getting all new guns to replace the old ones, said Irene. He was also an active member and usher for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church.

Most importantly, he was an avid sports and hunting enthusiast and loved his family very much, added Irene.

“He was a great guy,” she said. “If he could only see that flagpole, he’d be so honored.”