Veterans honored at Pierce County Memorial Hall
Brig. Gen. Jackie A. Huber, first female deputy adjutant general for the North Dakota National Guard, was the special guest at a Veterans Day program held Monday at the Pierce County Memorial Hall.
Clarence A. Larson American Legion Post 23 sponsored the event.
Veterans and their families filled the chairs in the auditorium, and a long line of veterans from World War II through the Afghanistan War sat on the stage.
American Legion members presented the colors at the beginning of the program as the Rugby High School band played the National Anthem.
The RHS band also provided music throughout the program, playing the themes of each branch of the military. Veterans of the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard stood as each song was played.
Huber spoke to the audience about showing thanks to veterans, who she said “may be your neighbors, your relatives, your teachers, public service employees, supervisors and business owners.”
Huber added, “I urge you to please be sure to reach out to a veteran you know and thank them for their service. Let’s challenge each other to consider helping older disabled veterans run an errand, offer to drive them to a VA clinic, listen to their stories, listen to their military adventures before it’s too late.”
Special thanks and recognition went to veterans who served in the Vietnam War era.
Huber spoke of the mistreatment veterans returning from Vietnam faced and efforts to remedy their situation.
“We will continue to say ‘Welcome home’ and ‘Thank you for your service,'” Huber said. “Those words can never come too late for a surviving veteran. Sadly, our gratitude for military service members who fell in Vietnam comes too late. It also comes too late for those who later passed away. But it will not stop us from thanking their families; that will not stop us from recognizing their service. We will pray in the future recognition will always come back to our armed forces with the support they need and so richly deserve.”
“Additionally,” Huber added, “the Vietnam Veterans Recognition Act from 2017 designates every March 29 as National Vietnam Veterans Day. Governor Burgum has issued a proclamation in support of this great day. We now host an annual Vietnam Veterans Day at the state Capitol on March 29.”
Post Commander John Gustafson presented pins to Vietnam era veterans, who he described as “serving from 1 November 1955 through 16 May 1975.”
Surviving spouses of three veterans received pins and certificates to honor and recognize the veterans’ Vietnam era service. Lorriane Shjerve, Marilyn Bjerke and Paula Binfet smiled somberly as they stepped forward to receive the honors, each greeted with a warm handshake and “thank you” from Huber.
Gustafson mentioned another “thank you” during the program: cards and art projects created by Ely Elementary students to thank veterans. Gustafson said Ely librarian Kathy Erickson taught lessons on the meaning of Veterans Day and a wreath made by students in Khloe Sobolik’s class decorated a wall.
Other veterans received pins and honors that they only recently learned they had earned.
Korean War veteran Engelbert Kuntz, Towner, received two bar-shaped pins – a Korean service medal with one bronze star and a United Nations service medal.
Kuntz, who later told the Tribune he had served in the Army with a crew building airstrips, said he had “forgotten about” some of his documents from his military career when he returned home because he lost some in a fire.
“My son-in-law was in the National Guard,” Kuntz said. “When I showed him (some documents), he said, ‘yeah, I’m supposed to be a tech sergeant.’ “
Kuntz recalled an experience when he first arrived in Korea. “I was scared then,” he said. “I was on guard duty. I didn’t know where I was at. I saw the jets going over but it rained so hard I couldn’t see much. The guys who brought me there with a jeep said, ‘There’s a phone over there if you have any problems.’ I finally found (the phone). They probably thought I had done guard duty there before. But they just dropped me off and said, ‘There’s a phone over there.’ That didn’t help too much.”
Kuntz added, “I got used to it, though.”
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