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Veterans Day program lauds local servicemembers

The Veterans Day program concluded with every Nevis student shaking hands with local servicemembers. (Photos by Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)1 / 3
A 1984 Nevis graduate, Command Sergeant Major Mitch Hellkamp was the featured guest speaker.2 / 3
Nevis second graders sang "My Country 'Tis of Thee." 3 / 3

Nevis School hosted a Veterans Day program on Nov. 10.

A packed Tigers Arena listened to guest speakers Trudy Maninga and Command Sergeant Major Mitch Hellkamp.

Star of the North U.S. Marine Corps League Honor Guard posted the colors while Adeline and Lydia Bjorklund sang the national anthem.

"Believe it or not, my connection to the veteran family is I have great-great-grandfathers that served in the Revolutionary War. My great-grandfather served in the Civil War, along with four of his brothers, and an uncle is a World War II veteran. He came from the little town of Nevis here," Maninga said.

Her uncle was deployed to the Philippines, she said, and was one of 16 people selected in the U.S. Army to go on a special mission. But they were forced to hide underground.

"He was 6 ft 4 and a redhead, so it was not easy to hide from the Japanese," Maninga said.

He was considered "missing in action" for almost three years.

"He came home on Mother's Day. He was one of three or four that survived," she said.

Maninga reminded students that veterans protect their right to attend school.

"The ones that are at war or at peace, they give us the right to speak. They give us the right to worship if we chose to do so. They give us the right to honor that great flag and what it has stood for. They give us the right to be what we are," she said.

Delve into your family history, urged Maninga, "find the veterans in your family. Respect them. Respect this flag. Respect this country. If we can respect, we can change what we may not like and can do something about it in a positive manner."

A 1984 Nevis High School graduate, Hellkamp was deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and Kuwait with the U.S. Army. He currently resides in Coon Rapids.

"The servicemembers we honor today came from all walks of life, all parts of the nation and all corners of our state, but they share fundamental qualities. They possess courage, pride, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity, all the attributes needed to serve in the Armed Forces," Hellkamp said.

Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population serves in the military, he noted.

They are "ordinary people that respond in extraordinary ways in extreme circumstances."

"Millions of Americans have fought and died here and abroad to defend our freedoms and our way of life. Even today, as we face volatile situations around the globe, men and women are volunteering to serve in the military and join the best that America has to offer," Hellkamp said.

As part of the Veterans Day program, Akeley VFW Post 8508 announced that Jack McNamee, a ninth grader, was the winner of the VFW's Voice of Democracy Essay competition. Open to freshman through seniors, contestants submit an audio essay about democratic ideas and principles. The 2017 theme was "American History: Our Hope for the Future."

Eighth grader Hannah Buzzell wrote the winning essay for the VFW's Patriot's Pen Essay Contest. The annual competition encourages sixth through eighth graders to examine America's history, along with their own experiences, and craft a 300- to 400-word essay. This year's theme was "America's Gift to My Generation."

Commandant Dave Free of the Star of the North U.S. Marine Corps League presented awards to Veterans Day coloring contest winners. Each received a $25 gift certificate to Leona's.

First, he thanked the Nevis Tigers football team, Nevis student body and community member for standing during the national anthem.

"That flag over there is the one that most of us served under. That's the flag that most of us were willing to die for. And that flag right there is the one most of us will be buried under. It means a lot to us," Free said.