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Cody Olafson has come home to his final resting place

 

Cody Olafson

by Jeff Olsen

It was the mournful cries of a bereaved mother for an only son that cut through the sounds of a bagpipe and a bugle shortly after 2:10 p.m. last Friday during the outside ceremony at Messiah Lutheran Church in Roseau.

Big Cody Olafson, 26, will forever be remembered, and he was very respectfully honored by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Honor Guard.

There were few dry eyes during the precise folding of the American flag which had covered his casket and was then presented to Ann Olafson, whose heart is broken.

But his family, relatives and friends will never forget the dedication and thoughtfulness extended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, and state and local law enforcement personnel.

Family Remembrances

A week ago Wednesday, May 25, two days before the funeral, Ann and Robbi Peterson spoke affectionately of her son, Cody.

Have a nickname for him?

"Big O and Teddy Bear," said Robbi.

"He was also Code Man," said Ann.

He was six-foot-seven and had recently weighed 315 pounds.

"He lost 50 pounds at the academy," said Ann, mentioning that he wasn't a particularly huge infant.

"Just eight pounds, six ounces, and 21 inches long," she said.

Big O suffered a life-ending heat stroke at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Georgia, passing away on May 20.

Did Cody call home often?

"Every day, he texted or called and he just wanted to get his badge, come home, see the family, and then start working."

Her voice broke.

"We shouldn't have to bury a child. He's our baby," she said, noting that the officials at the academy pinned on his badge.

"He will be given full honors on graduation day. He would have graduated on June 6. They said at the academy that he was the gentle giant."

Ann, her husband, her daughter, Sara, along with Ann's sister, Shar, were able to meet his classmates.

"We got escorted around the academy and went to the running track where it happened. I walked right to the spot where he dropped and then walked the rest of the way to the finish line."

Ann's voice broke and there were more tears.

"I had to be where it happened," she said, completely in awe of how the Blue - as she frequently referred to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel - had been so helpful.

"They are top notch. He was protected by the Honor Guard from the day it happened until the very minute he will be put in his resting place."

Cody was in Session 587 and his badge number was A-17.

What struck Ann and her family was their devotion.

"He was escorted everywhere, from plane to plane, from city to city. It was phenomenal," she said.

When the jet transporting Cody's casket arrived in Fargo just before midnight on Monday, May 23, six government vehicles - three in front of and three behind the hearse - escorted Cody's coffin back to Roseau.

The convoy got bigger when the fire trucks from Greenbush, Badger, and Roseau joined the procession.

A week ago Wednesday, Ann added that the Blue are forever in her gratitude.

"The Blue does not get enough credit, and the Border Patrol does not get enough credit for what they do and how they protect our country," she said.

It was what Cody had wanted to do the most.

"He wanted to protect our country and keep it safe. That was right down his alley."

Ann noted that her son was always the protector of every relative, young and old.

"He stuck up for everybody. He was our gentle giant."

There were more tears.

"We sent him away as our young man. They said down there that he was the most respectable man that they'd met in a long time."

When Cody collapsed on the running track on that fateful day, one of his drill sergeants recalled that Cody had said, "Sir, I will finish!"

The officer said, "No, just stay down, Cody."

There was no quit in Cody, who said again, "Sir, I will finish!" before passing out from a heat stroke.

"They had to keep him down," said Ann. "He tried so hard to get up, but he couldn't."

His body temperature was 105 degrees at the hospital.

Next May 15, he will be honored in Washington D.C. during National Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Ann and her family will attend as guests of the U.S. government.

"Cody deserves this," said Robbi, acknowledging that his stepson's sacrifice to become a Customs and Border Protection officer was a dream cut short.

"He wanted to make a difference," he said.

Auntie Shar

Shar Peterson remains forever impressed with the members of the Honor Guard who stood by Cody's casket.

"He was only 26 and just eight work days from graduation. They pinned his badge on him at the funeral home in Brunswick, Georgia."

Shar appreciated that Ann was able to be with Cody before he died. She and her daughter, Sara, arrived at 2:30 in the morning on Wednesday May 18.

"There was a lot of crying," she said, recalling that at the funeral home in Brunswick, his classmates were in their dress uniforms and came to pay their last respects.

"A lot of the cadets or what you call them said he was very inspirational to them. That meant a lot," said Shar.

Respect from Pembina

Last Friday, shortly before the funeral at Messiah, a man dressed in blue offered his condolences.

Simon Kern, a 15-year U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer recalled meeting Cody in January at the Pembina Port of Entry.

"He was a very special kid. When I met him, I had to look up to him. He's a big boy!"

Mr. Kern shortly learned that Cody had hailed from Middle River.

"That's my neck of the woods. I'm from Greenbush," he said, telling Cody that he was glad he chose to serve at the Pembina port.

Cody had wrestled for his brother, Joshua, in elementary school.

"So, Cody and I had a connection, and I was able to spend two weeks with him before he left for the academy."

At six-foot-two and 300 plus pounds, Simon admitted there are very few people he has to look up to.

"Cody was one of them," said the 1995 state heavyweight wrestling champion from Greenbush.

"That was the year Cody was born. I've been with Cody since he flew in on Monday night, and I'll be part of the honors today. It's a very sad time, and we're missing out on a very good officer."

Christopher Misson, the area port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Minnesota and North Dakota, recalled meeting Cody in January and that his training officers at the Pembina Port had credited Cody for his enthusiasm, honesty, and the makings of an excellent CBP officer.

"It's very sad and unfortunate of his passing because he would have been a huge asset to the port of Pembina and Customs and Border Protection."

The Journey Home

Nick Kvidt, the local funeral director, left Roseau at 6:45 p.m. on Monday.

"We drove to Hector International Airport in Fargo, and the plane arrived at three minutes to midnight. Cody's casket was unloaded from the plane into the hearse," he said.

There were three federal government vehicles in front of Mr. Kvidt's hearse and three behind it.

"So, there were six vehicles escorting us, but there were numerous other agencies. We came up Interstate 29, and the North Dakota State Patrol was part of the procession."

They exited on Gateway Drive in Grand Forks.

"At every single entrance or intersection, they had an officer vehicle and then they would join the procession after we had gone past," said Kvidt.

Once in Minnesota, the Minnesota State Patrol took over.

"They had officers in Thief River Falls and, at Holt, they had the fire truck and an ambulance join in."

Once in Roseau County, the Greenbush, Badger and Roseau fire trucks joined the procession into Roseau to the funeral chapel.

"It was a remarkable coordination," he said, recalling that they arrived in Roseau about 4:30 that morning.

At 3:15 a.m., Roseau volunteer firemen, Jeff Ballard and Neal Vatnsdal, arrived at the fire hall.

"We drove out with Fire Truck 44 to join the incoming procession at Fox and were sitting out there by 3:30," said Mr. Ballard, thankful to be part of the procession.

Final Journey

Following the Honor Guard ceremony at Messiah, the procession to Spruce Cemetery was led by a lead police vehicle, then the Helgeson hearse, and followed by approximately 30 law enforcement vehicles with their lights flashing.

And then came the mourners.

Cody never expected his life to end at such a young age.

Still, he would be proud of his associates and how honorably they treated his family and friends.

"We take care of our own," said Jared Olafson, the U.S. Customs Port Director in Warroad.

Yes, they do!

 

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