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Standing guard tradition: Mark Gazelka rings in holiday, historical cheer

Mark Gazelka mans his post at the Salvation Army bucket stationed inside Marketplace Foods in Bemidji on Thursday. Gazelka has made a tradition of dressing in different U.S. Army uniforms to ring the bell. (Micah Friez | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—Mark Gazelka manned his post on Thursday, ringing the bell for The Salvation Army inside Marketplace Foods while dressed head to toe in a U.S. Army uniform from the Vietnam War.

"It's not a real glamorous deal, but I have a lot of fun with it," Gazelka said of volunteering. "It's fun visiting with people... It all goes for a good for a cause."

In recent years, Gazelka has volunteered for The Salvation Army while dressed in a different historical uniform from the U.S. Army Infantry. He said he started collecting military garb at age 10, and his deep collection has allowed him to continue his annual tradition.

"It draws attention to our veterans," Gazelka said of his uniform. "I have a lot of respect and thanks and admiration for (them). A lot of veterans do come through here. ... I always focus on those guys and thank them for their service."

And though Gazelka is happy to volunteer during the holiday season, he's hopeful that others will enlist to join him in the trenches.

"Salvation Army needs help with bell ringers," he said. "They're always short and need volunteers to ring."

Those interested in volunteering as bell ringers can contact Patti Jones at (218) 308-5234—historical military uniforms optional.

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.

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