Roughly two dozen Twin Cities firefighters and police officers undertook honor guard duties Sunday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for a dive team member who died on an emergency call in Texas and is heading home for burial in her native North Dakota.
Lori Pohanka-Kalama, a member of the Morgan’s Point fire and police dive team in central Texas, was pulled from a rain-swollen creek on the Fort Hood Army Base on April 15, was hospitalized and died the next day. She was among those searching for a soldier swept away in the water along with his vehicle.
Pohanka-Kalama, 46, will be buried in south-central North Dakota this week.
On Sunday, the honor guard at the Twin Cities airport was on hand for nearly six hours in service to Pohanka-Kalama and her family as they awaited their 8:25 p.m. flight to North Dakota.
Eden Prairie Fire Chief George Esbensen said in a Facebook post that the honor guard would tend to Pohanka-Kalama’s casket and “also see to any needs of family members who are also accompanying her home to her final resting place.”
The chief said three of his personnel are part of a larger contingent of fire and police department members participating in this mission, which was organized with the help of Brooklyn Park Fire Chief Ken Prillaman.
“How tribute is paid to the fallen is a reflection on the integrity of our profession,” Esbensen said in the Facebook post.
Prillaman said 22 people were officially part of the honor guard, but he expected members of the airport police and fire departments to participate, as well as others from the metro area.
Upon arrival from Texas to MSP’s main terminal, the casket was moved to an airport fire station until the Sunday night flight to Bismarck, Prillaman said.
Pohanka-Kalama’s obituary on the website of Myers Funeral Home in Linton, N.D., said “her sudden death exemplifies her caring and courage. … She has successfully carried out several search and recovery missions with them. Her bravery and caring knew no bounds.”
Along with her volunteer work on the dive team, Pohanka-Kalama also was managing a speech pathology practice.
Pohanka-Kalama was born in Grafton, N.D., and moved with her family as a child to Linton, 60 miles southeast of Bismarck.
She married Kelly Kalama in Texas, and they moved around for his military career, finally locating in Belton, Texas. Survivors include sons Rafe, 14, and Gabriel, 13.
A memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at First Baptist Church in Linton. Visitation on Monday will be from noon to 9 p.m. at the funeral and again Tuesday for one hour before services at the church.