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Rugby American Legion Post takes Veterans Day program to airwaves

By Sue Sitter - | Nov 21, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Rugby radio personality Bruce Allen prepares to broadcast a Veterans Day program for area residents.

The Rugby Clarence Larson American Legion Post 23 teamed with Rugby Broadcasters to present a Veterans Day program Nov. 11 to honor residents who served in the military and share the holiday’s meaning with the public.

For years, the post has celebrated the day with a program in Veterans Memorial Hall on Second Avenue Southeast. Veterans of conflicts in the distant past through the present usually stand onstage in the building’s auditorium as their family, friends and community honor them for their service. The morning program features speeches by military personnel and people from all other walks of life saluting veterans and explaining the meaning of the day to attendees. A community luncheon often follows the program.

This year, Gustafson and post members Josh Siegler, Tony Coffman, Ron Montonye and Tillman Hovland put together a program community members could enjoy from the safety of their homes.

The half-hour program, broadcast on Rugby’s KZZJ Veterans Day morning featured interviews with those who had served in several branches of the military, music selections and a brief history of the holiday.

“In the years when we had (the program in Memorial Hall), we always had veterans of past conflicts onstage,” Post Commander Jon Gustafson said in the broadcast. “Although we aren’t in Memorial Hall, in keeping with that tradition, I would like to identify those people now, starting with Duane Baillie and Gabe Scheet, veterans of World War II; Ray Norsby from the Korean War, Vietnam veteran Mike Christenson, Gulf War veteran Dave Engeland, Iraqi Freedom veteran, Josh Siegler; Enduring Freedom, myself; raid of Kuwait and Army National Guard veteran Kirk Seaver.”

“I would also like to recognize from the sons of the American Legion, Ben Kuhnhenn; from the American Legion Auxiliary, President Joyce Teigen; our veterans service officer Ron Montonye and our guest speaker, Tony Coffman,” Gustafson added.

Radio host Bruce Allen shared the history of Veterans Day with listeners.

“In 1918, the world was at war. World War I had been raging on for several years between the USA and the allies in Europe against Germany,” Allen explained. “Finally, there were talks of peace. These peace talks led to an armistice – a ceasing of hostilities between the two enemies. It was signed at 5:45 a.m. on November 11th 1918 and hostilities were to cease at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.”

Allen said peace talks followed the armistice, leading to the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the war.

“November 11 was declared a national holiday in many of the allied nations including the United States with many of them changing the name from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day or Veterans Day,” Allen said. “In our country, it’s called Veterans Day.”

“The United States passed a resolution in 1926 for a national observance and it became a national holiday in 1938,” Allen added. “President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially changed the name of the holiday from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954.”

Allen explained how the holiday differs from Memorial Day, which honors military personnel who have died. Veterans Day, he said, honors all veterans living and dead.

Post member and Pierce County Veterans Service Officer Ron Montonye presented more historical information about the day and the war that began the tradition.

“Americans lost 53,500 men from battle deaths alone, most of them in a period of six weeks. Deaths from other causes, mostly disease, were even greater, more than 63,000. Of the non-mortal wounds, many of the 204,000 were debilitating,” Montonye noted. “These casualties, while heavy, were small compared to those of our American allies.”

Montonye noted France suffered even greater casualties in the war years between 1914 and 1918, losing 1.35 million men, while Russia lost 1.7 men and England lost 900,000. Montonye said Germany and Austria combined lost nearly three million men in the conflict.

“They all played a significant role in preserving the freedom and liberties which we Americans so cherish are so privileged to enjoy. Just as these veterans answered their call to duty, we as Americans must now do our duty to remember and honor those who have served and those who are serving in our military today,” Montonye added.

“I would like to believe we as a country have always done this, but if we are honest, we have to admit that at times we have not always done so,” Montonye noted.

Montonye described the difficulties experienced by veterans of the Vietnam War, who faced disrespectful treatment from some Americans on their return from the conflict. He also noted veterans of more recent conflicts such as Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom face a seemingly apathetic public who fails to appreciate their sacrifice.

Tony Coffman, an Army veteran and the post’s newest member, interviewed two local veterans for the program. Coffman pastors Restoration Ministries Church in Rugby and works as an account manager for the radio station.

Coffman read statements from fellow pastor and Navy veteran Mike Lundberg, who described how his time in the service allowed him to experience different cultures and see many parts of the world.

Lundberg told Coffman he believed experiences in the military help young people mature and leave them “better prepared for the crazy world we live in.”

Retired Air Force Captain Dwight Johnson, another Rugby veteran, told Coffman he enjoyed a perk that came with his service. “I got to fly,” the former pilot said to Coffman.

Coffman described Veterans Day traditions across the United States.

“The Bedford (N.H.) Friendship Quilt Guilt presents veterans with quilts of appreciation. This is followed by a concert celebrating patriotism,” Coffman noted.

Coffman said Houston, Texas “takes their celebration of Veterans Day and turns it into an opportunity for veterans to talk with medical specialists, speak with potential employers and receive community recognition all in one event. The day is capped by a formal ceremony and a 21-gun salute to honor those who served.”

Coffman described how Branson, Mo. turns Veterans Day into a week of celebrations.

“These include military film festivals, reunions for many different veterans’ groups; a luncheon for the spouses of military veterans and many other events dedicated to recognizing and supporting military veterans and their families,” Coffman said.

Veteran and retired music teacher Tillman Hovland played taps in remembrance of veterans who had died either while serving or later as civilians.

Marine veteran and Pierce County Sheriff Josh Siegler, who serves as the post’s chaplain, delivered the invocation and benediction for the program, recording his sermons instead of presenting them before the public at Memorial Hall.

In his closing prayer, Siegler said, “We pray that violence may be overcome by peace; that weapons of destruction may be transformed into tools of justice and hate will give way to true charity. We honor you today, veterans and all those who wear the uniform.”

“We pray and as we give thanks and as we remember, may the Lord bless you greatly for your service and sacrifice and may God bless America,” Siegler added.

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