Park Rapids, Menahga and Nevis collectively have a great reputation in what all the good things veterans organizations do in serving our communities. That reputation and pride was again on display Wednesday during the annual Veterans Day programs, each unique in presentation but the same in carrying out the objective of honoring our veterans. Impressive was the student participation at Century Middle School. The 10th annual program features middle school students wearing uniforms from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. They did an outstanding job under the guidance of volunteers Charli Cohrs and LaPalma Anderson. These two retired teachers don’t seek the spotlight but the work they do, with the help of other volunteers, is more than worth noting. The uniforms are authentic, the spirit and commitment is authentic, and what they do to honor all veterans is absolutely authentic. It is a fine program featuring the Park Rapids American Legion and Auxiliary.
This year’s program was entitled “Honoring All Who Serve in Times of War, in Times of Peace.” The Legion looked sharp in advancing, posting and then retiring the Colors. The students looked sharp in the vintage uniforms and the volunteer coordinators deserve the credit for bringing such a fine program together. The Menahga School gymnasium was packed to overflowing. It was nice to see participation from elementary through high school students. Class representatives held U.S. flags front and center, first graders presented gifts to veterans in the crowd, and fifth graders sang “God Bless America.” The high school band performed, “The Message on the Rock,” a medley of patriot tunes inspired from battle scenes and speeches from our nation’s history emblazoned on a rock.
The young essay winners in the Menahga VFW’s two contests presented thoughtful meditations on what freedom means and their vision of America. Current or former students and staff who answered the call to military service were also recognized. Menahga’s pride in its veterans was fully evident as students joined the VFW Post 6206 Color Guard and Star of the North Marine Corps League, which represents the Park Rapids area, to retire the nation’s Colors.
Nevis students were very respectful during their program and they gave keynote speaker and 2003 Nevis graduate Ryan Vredenburg a rousing round of applause. Vredenburg is a Black Hawk pilot for the U.S. Army currently stationed in Ryley, Kansas. He was, indeed, a small town hero to the students. The first graders singing, “I love my country” brought the crowd to tears.