by David Hill
Marshall County Central High School in Newfolden hosted its fourth community Veterans Day Program Friday. Superintendent Jeffrey Lund said the school was proud to work with American Legion Post 427 in providing a heartfelt program that helps students and the community remember veterans for the sacrifices they made and continue to make.
The program featured three special events – a dedication to 13 area residents who were killed in service to the country, recognition of three local Legion members for 50, 60 and 70 years of service, and a surprise presentation of a high school diploma to Wallace Stewart Sethre, who was called to action shortly before he would have graduated.
David Myhrer, commander of Post 427, said past events included dedication of a memorial in the school to graduates of the high school who served and died for their country. They’ve also dedicated a memorial to an individual who was, if not the first, one of the first to receive the Honor Flag. Friday, he said they were dedicating a memorial to men who made it through the eighth, ninth or 10th grade and then quit to either help their father on the farm or to join the service.
Jim Larson said the 13 names on the memorial do not tell its readers about who these men were or their spirit. It does not tell its readers about a relative’s service and death in service and how it had an impact on his nephew, who then served and lost his life; it doesn’t tell the reader about the spirit of the men who died in service to their country and whose names are now the names of American Legion posts; it does not say anything of the soldier who did not want to serve because he felt sure he was going to die and who took out an insurance policy that when he was killed, took care of his mother for the rest of her life; it does not tell of the veteran who died in an accident; or the prisoner of war who was executed. Larson said what we know about these men only scratches the surface.
Larson then read the names of the veterans: David Gustafson of Viking, Richard Swenson of Holt, Otto Knutson of Newfolden, John Reierson of Holt, Alfred Olson of Holt, Orville Strandberg of Newfolden, Glen Ranum of Viking, Rubin Ness of Holt, Ruben Larson of Holt, Norman Olson of Holt, Cecil Magner of Newfolden, Paul Larson of Holt, and Gustav Sollom of Holt.
Relatives representing the men being recognized were called forward to help unveil the plaque memorializing the 13. The plaque will now be placed at the entrance of the school with other two memorials.
Myhrer, who presented service awards, said these men may be stooped over and shuffle their feet a little, but at one time they put on a 40-pound backpack, two and one-half pound helmet and carried a nine-pound rifle and went to war. Today, he said, they continue to serve their country through their mentorship and service to community and their Post. For their continuous membership in the Post, Myhrer presented a 50-year service award to Clyde Swenson, a Korean War veteran; a 60-year service award to Hilton Hjelle, a Korean War veteran; and a 70-year service award to (Wallace) Stewart Sethre, a World War II veteran.
In a surprise to Sethre, they asked him to stay up front and then explained that he had entered military service in March just two months prior to when he would have graduated from high school, and that he could not attend graduation services. Lund said that he had fulfilled the requirements necessary for graduation and then asked the chairman of the Board of Education, Mark Larson, to officially present him his diploma.
“It’s difficult to express in words our gratitude to those who have served our country and had to make many sacrifices,” said Rep. Dan Fabian, who gave the keynote address. Fabian has two sons, Mark, who serves in the Army National Guard, and Jason, a 2014 graduate of the Air Force Academy, who is now stationed in Florida.
“This is an amazing country,” said Fabian. He said it has come to the rescue of many countries that have experienced unimaginable disasters and it asks for nothing in return except maybe a place to bury its dead soldiers.
Support services to veterans are very important to Fabian. Fabian said he was proud of what representatives at the Legislature have done for veterans. Minnesota, he said, has a long history of doing what it can for its veterans. Fabian then focused on how many veterans struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and how our country, state, and communities must make sure they get the treatment they need and deserve. He said making sure veterans have the support services they need has been a high priority of his ever since being elected to office and that it continues to be a high priority to him.
Fabian told those gathered at the event to say thank you to the service men and women they meet. He guaranteed that it would make the service member feel good, and make them feel great.