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