by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Recognizing U.S. veterans beyond the holiday of Veterans Day was the message being promoted by speakers and students during a program at the packed Central High School gymnasium on Monday.
During the one-hour long program bolstered by performances from the Central High School Band and choir students, speakers praised the efforts of veterans and veterans service organizations.
American Legion Post 343 Commander Dick Stolz started the program by welcoming those in attendance, reminding them that the day is to honor all veterans.
“Veterans are a special bunch,” said Stolz. “They serve their country, protect those at home and maintain the integrity of freedom in the United States. They left their families and homes to go to strange and often hostile place.”
Stoltz said often the veteran is depicted as a combat veteran, but there are plenty of veterans who didn’t serve in direct combat.
“It takes eight to 10 veterans to support one veteran engaged in combat situations,” said Stolz, since support veterans provide gasoline, food, clean water, ammunition, disarmament, roads, bridges, mechanical work and more. “And other necessities too numerous to mention require veterans to fill these roles for a successful mission. If any of them fails, the mission also has a high likelihood of failure. Every veteran’s job is important and no veteran’s job is trivial. So while direct combat is what many people perceive veterans to be it is all veterans who work together to make our military successful and very proud.”
Reinforcing the day’s message, Stolz acknowledged the community support.
“Today we honor all veterans regardless of their role in the respective branches of the military in which they serve,” he said. “They deserve respect for what they gave up to protect this country.”
Guest speaker James Bury, a 1961 Central graduate and former member of the U.S. Army in Vietnam and Army Reserves, underlined veterans’ impacts past and present.
“In 1965, six months after graduating college I was in seventh heaven,” he said, recalling receiving a $25 raise. “A few days later I went back down to earth.”
Bury had received a draft letter, and within six weeks he was headed to Kentucky for three years in the army, becoming one of the 23 million living veterans.
“Back then the TV ad said ‘join the service and see the world,’” he said, an ad which came true as his service took him across the world. “It was one of the best journeys I have ever taken.”
In his personal speech, Bury said he learned that veterans were “everywhere” in the community of NYA, and emphasized this by taking attendees on a virtual walk through Main Street Young America as it was in 1954, highlighting the many veterans who owned or worked in businesses.
Bury also recalled his experiences as a sixth-grader in 1954 when Veterans Day was first held.
“Back then I knew there were many veterans in Young America,” he said. “I marched with them to the cemetery on Memorial Day, saw them fire rifles at veterans’ funerals and attended Poultry Bingo on Thanksgiving at old city hall.”
Bury also urged the crowd to do their part in recognizing veterans for their service year-round, whether it be by flying a flag, buying a poppy, attending WWII roundtable events, thanking veterans and supporting American Legion, VFW and Auxiliary fundraisers and organizations.
One of those organizations is the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon (BTYR) committee which focuses on finding services and supporting active and former veterans.
Crystal Lemke, a BTYR member, called out for volunteers and for veterans to share their stories. She also reminded that NYA was designated a as a BTYR community two months ago. An official proclamation for the designation is tentatively set for Dec. 8 at 2 p.m.
“If you are interested in learning more about Beyond the Yellow Ribbon, please come and join us,” she said of the group in Hamburg, Cologne, Plato and NYA that offers assistance to those who need help. “Those people, our veterans and service members, have worked and sacrificed and by working together to make sure we remain free… We need to help them by being there for them and their families when they are gone and when they do come back home. That’s where we need your help. We need volunteers.”
For questions, contact Lemke at 952-564-4290.
Other speakers included Girls’ State attendee Alyssa Heher, Boys’ State and Nation attendee Brandon Fabel and eighth-grade Patriot’s Pen Essay participant Kaitlyn McCracken.
Above all, Bury reminded those in attendance to thank veterans for their service.
“When you see veterans wearing their colors, thank them for their service,” he said. “So raise the flag, take a veteran to lunch, get involved, help ensure that your community continues to honor veterans in the future… Thank you for coming and filling this gymnasium, once again, on Veterans Day. And finally, veterans, thank you for your service and I salute you for wearing your colors today. God bless all of you and God bless America.”
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]