Woodbury honors its veterans in multiple ceremonies
There was an extra reason to appreciate military men and women this Veterans Day, as a nation bitterly divided over the presidential election found common ground at Friday’s ceremonies honoring those who served.
Woodbury paid tribute in various observances throughout the day.
The Veterans Day observance at East Ridge High School was organized by athletic/activities director and Air Force Veteran Joel Olson, with help from social worker and Army Veteran Alphonse Shropshire.
Army Veteran Matt Everson delivered the keynote speech. Everson, who coaches the Raptors wrestling program, served as a combat arms specialist in Iraq.
Everson spoke of his fear when he received a call informing him he was being deployed to Iraq. But he reminded his audience that courage was not the lack of fear, but doing your duty in spite of your fear.
“Lesson one: Feel the fear and do it anyway,” he said.
He said he repeated that sentence to himself while on night patrol in Iraq, when his convoy was under frequent peril from bomb booby traps called improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Student council president Hayden Schulz opened and closed the ceremony.
“Veterans are being left behind in some instances,” said Schulz, 17, “so it’s great to bring them here for some praise and love for everything they’ve done for us.”
At Bailey Elementary, the kindergarten class led the Pledge of Allegiance and the choir sang “The Star Spangled Banner” to open their Veterans Day program.
“This year, we had a lot more student involvement,” assistant principal Joy Peterson said. Cub Scouts from the fifth grade presented the colors, while kids introduced the speakers.
Speaker Rick Langan, a Navy Master Chief Intelligence Specialist, was introduced by his son and daughter, first-grader Hunter and fourth-grader Reagan. First-grader Isla Lewis introduced her dad, Marine Corps Captain Nathan Lewis.
The audience heard two poems by Air Force Staff Sergeant Bob Beskar of Cottage Grove.
“Veterans Day 2016” was read by Marine Corps veteran and former Sgt. Scott Peterson. The third-grade class also read Beskar’s poem “November Roll Call.”
Beskar, who served in Vietnam from 1968-72, said he composes a new poem each year to commemorate Veterans Day.
“Kids need to know these things,” he said. “Freedom is not free, like they say.”
The City of Woodbury celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) during its afternoon ceremony at Woodbury’s Veterans Memorial.
Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens reminded the audience to do more than lip service to veterans.
“The highest appreciation is not just to express our thanks but show our thanks by supporting veterans and their families,” she said. “Woodbury is so proud to be part of the (Beyond the) Yellow Ribbon network.”
Keynote speak Sgt. Rick Wachholz, an Army medic and military intelligence analyst, injected some humor into the solemnity of the proceedings by quoting Woody Allen and enlisting members of his family to act as walk-on hecklers.
But the ultimate message was serious and sincere.
“We veterans are not only grateful to serve,” he said, “but we are grateful for the country we serve.”
The Woodbury ceremony also included Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik and former Woodbury mayor William Hargis.