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Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

By Staff | Nov 13, 2015

The retiring of the colors by the Legion Guard as the honored guest and audience alike stood in tribute, a thankful community, for all that our veterans have freely given and the sacrifices they continue to make. Picture by JT Pelt/PCT

On a chilly Wednesday in North Dakota, people young and old packed the Memorial Hall in Rugby to honor all the United States Veterans who have woven the fabric of freedom into our daily lives. American Legion Clarence Larson Post 23 once again hosted this special Veterans Day Program, where people of all generations can congregate and honor all of those who have served so valiantly.

The program opened with the advancing of colors by Legion Color Guard members Raymond Norsby, who carried the American Flag; Larry Fjellanger, who carried the Legion Flag; Sergeant of Arms Ron Torgerson and County Commissioner and Navy Veteran Duane Johnston. After the advancing of colors American Legion Auxiliary President Tootie Fueller, with hand over heart, led the crowd in the reciting of the pledge of Allegiance. Pastor Don Barsness, who reminded us with his opening remarks that “We are the land of the free because we are the home of the brave”, gave this year’s invocation and benediction.

Legion Commander Kirk Seaver delivered the introduction of guests with his opening remarks.

The honored guests included World War II and Korean War veteran Duane Baillie, Korean War veteran Martin Heintz, Vietnam War veteran Johnnie Sander, Gulf War veteran Jeff Shjelver (who could not attend), Operation Iraqi and Operation Enduring Freedom veteran Josh Siegler, Army National Guard Will Griffin, Tootie Fueller, Veteran’s Service Officer Larry Fueller, Sons of American Legion Ben Kuhnhenn, District 14 representative Jon Nelson, and Barsness.

The National Anthem was then played by the Rugby High School Band and a poem written by Nancy Granger called “OLD GLORY” was read by Don Abrahamson. The last stanza of the poem represented the sentiment of the poem best; it read, “Take pride and love and humility – And spread it far from sea to sea – And tell the world with MIGHTY CRY OLD GLORY now will NEVER die.”

After the reading of the poem the Veterans Day address was delivered by Nelson, who commented how wonderful it was to see so many young people in the community taking the time to participate in the Veterans Day Program. He then reminded the audience that “Veterans Day started because on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11 o’ clock WWI ended and WWI was suppose to be the war to end all wars.”

Representative Nelson also said, “When it comes to the veterans issues, American Legion posts and VFW posts are the ones that volunteer their time and lobby for veterans concerns.” He went on to say that veterans need services to help in areas of mental health relaying that the suicide rate among veterans is “alarmingly high and unacceptable” That along with the mental health issues, other issues, like homelessness among veterans, needs to be addressed now. That continued procrastination by government is not acceptable.

After Representative Nelson’s remarks came Khloe Sobolik’s 2nd graders, who performed a Veterans Day skit. In addition, the class is going to write letters to Veterans and they concluded by singing a song to honor the Veterans.

Then Commander Seaver gave his Commander’s address. In his address we were reminded of a recent act of gallantry by Commander Kirk Seaver who said in his opening remarks “But then there are those who face pain and death so others can be spared. Such was the case of two American Veterans and their longtime friend when they bravely stopped a terrorist attack aboard a train bound for Paris this Summer.

“Airman First Class Spencer Stone, Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler could have run from danger. Instead Specialist Skarlatos said ‘Let’s go’ as the men ran towards a future that could have easily meant instant death or maiming.”

Commander Seaver finished the retelling of the tale by reminding us that because of these veterans”… This story is remembered not for the horrific tragedy that nearly happened but for the heroism that did.”

Commander Seaver also reminded those in attendance “From Bunker Hill to Baghdad, there has always been a select group of Americans willing to fight and possibly die for a cause greater than themselves.

“Whenever we hear a politician rail about the high cost of veterans’ benefits, it is up to us to remind the critic about the high cost of being a veteran. It is a cost blood, sweat and sacrifice that has produced and protected the greatest nation on Earth. God Bless you all for being here. God Bless our veterans and God Bless America!”, concluded Commander Seaver to thunderous applause.

Then the Rugby High School Band gave a toe-tapping rendition of all the anthems of each branch of service. The band was directed by Kari Hill.

At that time Commander Seaver presented a special award to Doug Meier, who just retired after 60 years in the color guard. The color guard and the auxiliary members are the individuals who, with honor and distinction, carryout the flag duties for events and funerals.

Then there was a moment of silence followed by Taps as a tribute to those who died at war, prisoners of war (POW) and other missing in action (MIA). Followed by Pastor Barsness giving the benediction. Then the event ended by the American Legion Color Guard retiring the colors.

As Veterans day comes to an end, it should be a reminder to us all that our veterans are our ‘lines in the sand’ that protect us from all that want to do harm to our country and our way of life; saying “thank you” to our veterans and their families just one day a year falls woefully short of the gratitude they deserve. We owe them our deepest appreciation 365 days of the year.

It is without a doubt that the courage and commitment of our veterans and service members keep the American spirit alive in this country. The men and women who have served risked their lives and protected us so that we can enjoy our freedoms every day. Due to these selfless acts, we must show these gallant men and women our gratitude each and every day through our actions, contributions and involvement.

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