The living room of Marsha and Jeremy Freyholtz’s Hutchinson home is a memorial. Several photos and a handmade plaque from Hutchinson’s Saluting Community Heroes event keep the memory of their son, Cody Claycamp, alive. But they’re not alone in honoring him.
“He loved being in the Army,” Marsha said. “When he was in the Army, it was good. In high school he was a stinker and a half, like most boys.”
Claycamp entered active service in the United States Army on March 3, 2015, and was deployed in 2017. At the age of 22, the 2014 Hutchinson High School graduate died by suicide in 2018 after returning from Afghanistan. He was based in El Paso, Texas, when he died. Marsha remembers her son as a happy-go-lucky guy with a love for hunting and fishing.
“He lost a buddy in Afghanistan and two more committed suicide,” she said. “And then he had a buddy here who committed suicide. (Cody) passed away the next month.”
This Friday, roughly 100 motorcycles will cruise into Hutchinson and stop at Northwoods Park near the Freyholtz’s home. As part of the Minnesota Tribute to the Troops annual memorial ride, the group will be there to tell Marsha and Jeremy Minnesota remembers their son’s sacrifice. The ride started in 2004 in response to dwindling coverage of casualties in the war on terror.
“When the first Minnesota soldier came home and had been killed, it was headline news everywhere,” said Jim Woodruff, who serves on the board of the Minnesota chapter of Tribute to the Troops. “As it became more common place and more guys were coming back, it was less and less of a story. So volunteers got together. We didn’t want these families to think they had been forgotten.”
In the ride’s first year, three families were visited by 30 participants on 20 motorcycles.
“We didn’t know what to expect, but it was very emotional,” Woodruff said. “It’s grown significantly since then.”
The ride will visit families around the state Friday and Saturday. To learn more about Tribute to the Troops, the memorial ride, or the Fallen Heroes’ Children’s Education Fund, visit tributetothetroops.org.
The memorial ride’s 11 a.m., one-hour visit to Hutchinson this Friday will be the second on the itinerary. Others are welcome to join the visit and honor Claycamp’s memory, along with family members planning to take part. Claycamp is survived by his son, Steven.
“We’ve been to homes where the entire neighborhood was there, and when it’s just been mom and dad,” Woodruff said. “It can be anything in between. It doesn’t matter to us. We’re there to support the family no matter what. We’ll go to the park across the street, set up there and have the presentation. We’ll be there about an hour, and hopefully we’ll be a little part of the healing process.”
“It’s amazing. It’s overwhelming a bit,” Marsha said. “But I am very honored that they are doing that and he is not forgotten.”
Daryl Bateman remembers vividly the day the World Trade Center fell.
“It was a terrible day,” he said. “I was teaching at the time, and I was for some reason sick that particular day. I turned on the TV and the first thing I saw was the plane going into the first tower.”
The Hutchinson man and former Ridgewater instructor watched coverage of the 9/11 attacks and could feel himself becoming sicker and sicker physically throughout that day. He wasn’t able to sleep that night and resolved to write about it the next morning.
“I write poetry, and the only way sometimes I can show my emotions is through poetry,” Bateman said.
The finished poem is titled “The Awakening.” It took him a day and a half to write it, and he edited it 30 times. Recently, the poem was turned into a CD that had Civil War-era music playing in the background. The track is scheduled to be played on radio stations at KDUZ, Glencoe and Mankato on the anniversary of 9/11.
Bateman hoped to have his poem aired on four to six radio or TV stations this year, and more in the future. His ultimate goal is for the families of all the victims to have a copy of the poem. His motivation for wanting the poem played on air is the lack of remembrance outside of New York.
“There should be a way for the people of Minnesota and throughout this country to recognize these people (9/11 victims), because every year New York does it,” Bateman added. “But we don’t do much of anything. There’s a few TV blurbs once in a while, but no radio stations ever bring it up.”
The original poem, which was printed on parchment paper, has pictures of firemen going into the towers. The pictures have since faded with time but are still visible up close.
“I keep these in my house, and my kids each have one,” Bateman said. “I’ve sold some. I’ve given them away as gifts.”
“The Awakening” was included in a book of Bateman’s published poetry in 2010. He said the ending is his favorite part, as it sums up what happened to the U.S. after the attacks.
“’For God is our faithful leader, our comforter, and our guide. He will awaken this mighty nation with his loving spirit — far and wide,’ he read. “I think that pretty much tells how it was going to end up, and it did.”
The Hutchinson City Council wants to attract new residents to the area.
During its meeting last Tuesday, the council approved a $75,500 contract with the Tennessee based marketing firm Chandlerthinks. Funding will come from the city's Community Improvement Fund.
"What this project is about is telling the story of Hutchinson," said city administrator Matt Jaunich. "We feel this is a great opportunity to help recruit young families to the community. Families of all ages and backgrounds."
The workforce shortage in Hutchinson and around the state is well known. The city's effort to market itself to new residents is an attempt to bring in me more qualified workers.
"We want to attract good employees," Council Member Steve Cook said.
"We need more people here," said Hutchinson Economic Development Director Miles Seppelt. "I think, in terms of helping our business community be successful, that's where it's really important for the community. If our business community is successful, all of us are successful."
Hutchinson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism president Mary Hodson echoed those sentiments.
"This is about messaging to our future coworkers, neighbors and homeowners," she said.
But it's not just local businesses that would benefit from more people moving to Hutchinson. More people in town could mean a lighter tax burden for residents.
QUOTE FROM MATT JAUNICH
"Hopefully more homes being built, more kids going to our schools, you recruit a new business or two," Jaunich said. "You're hoping that if they're building homes and building businesses, then that gives us opportunities to spread that tax base out."
The project, which is scheduled to begin in September, will take approximately 6-9 months to complete. According to the project proposal's executive summary, the branding process is broken down into four phases:
Jaunich also noted that the city's logo is in dire need of updating, as the current logo includes water falls that no longer exist, and the digital version is formatted in a way that is difficult to use. Incorporating the new logo on vehicles and in city materials would be done over time.
The contract was awarded to Chandlerthinks after 19 different companies applied. Council members and Mayor Gary Forcier didn't expect the high turnout.
"(I'm) surprised that there was that many people interested," Forcier said.
A subcommittee with Council Members Cook and Mary Christensen, Jaunich, planning director Dan Jochum and director of information technology Tom Kloss initially narrowed the list down to four applicants. Hodson and Seppelt sat in and took part in the final interviews.
Chandlerthinks has provided its strategic branding services to 59 different counties and cities across 21 different states. Hodson said the company has much to offer the community.
"This process will start with a great deal of research, which Chandlerthinks does very well," she said. "They’ll engage the general public, key stakeholders and focus groups, and dig into perceptions of our city. They’ll evaluate the information they collect and work on a strategy, and then determine how best to express our collective thoughts and feelings into themes, ads and marketing pieces. They’ll create a usage and rollout plan."