Servicemen and women all around the Williston area are being honored as part of several Veterans Day ceremonies taking place this weekend.
More than 20 veterans were honored during a Veterans Day reception and program Friday afternoon at Trenton School, representing every branch of the service and most military conflicts as far back as World War II. Service members, their families and Trenton students shuffled past the wall of remembrance as they entered the schools cafeteria for the veterans reception. The wall featured photos of veterans from Trenton, many of whom were in attendance for the afternoon's presentation. Honorees enjoyed refreshments and conversation, catching up with fellow veterans and reminiscing as they looked upon the photos from their military days. Grant Carns, veterans service officer for Williams County, addressed those in attendance, speaking of the importance of honoring those who served.
"It's important, now more than ever, that we as a community and as a society understand the sacrifices of our men and women when they serve our country," he said. "You turn on the news, you see despair, you see countries tormented with genocide, famine, natural disasters. And it's our men and women that are often called upon in times of need. As I look out upon you today, not only do I want to thank the veterans for their service, I want to thanks the caregivers, those who help their veterans everyday."
The program continued in school's gym, where November Romer, Trenton high school junior, presented a historic overview of the significance of November 11. The date is known as Armistice Day as well as Veterans Day, marking the day that the allies of World War I and Germany signed the armistice ending hostilities. The agreement went into effect at 11 a.m., the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, in 1918. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the armistice.
The gymnasium, filled with students, teachers and family members, all stood as patriotic music swelled and the veterans entered, followed by the presentation of colors by flag-bearers Dani Nelson and Reese Nielson, students at Trenton school. The crowd was then led through reciting the Pledge of Allegiance by Debbie Kuehl's first grade class before Trenton's school choir performed each military branch anthem, with the veterans standing as their respective anthem was played. Marine Corps veteran and Trenton English teacher Jody Blackaby took to the podium as emcee, introducing each veteran in attendance, with special recognition for WWII veteran Robert Bearce and Korean War veteran Walter Patch.
Trenton High School freshman Ariana Reeves recited the poem "In Flanders Fields," written by John McRae during WWI. The poem refers to the red poppies that McRae noted grew around the graves of those who fell, and is the reason why poppies are worn in honor of those who lost their lives. The 7th through 12th grade choir then performed It's a Long, Long Way to Tipperary, before Blackaby led the crowd in a moment of silence for those veterans who never returned home.
"Veterans Day is a day for handshakes and Thank Yous," he said. "But at its core, it's a day to remember. One of the hardest memories that we can have, are of the ones that are not sitting here with us right now."
Blackaby then quoted Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry IV, which speaks of remembering valor in battle, and honoring the "Band of Brothers" who fought together. In a touching tribute, Trenton's first graders presented each veteran with a hand made Thank You card, a heart made of red, white and blue paper. The program concluded as the entire room, hand over hearts, stood and sang in patriotic unison, the Star-Spangled Banner, led by Trenton's kindergarten class.
Carns stated that he felt it was essential to have programs honoring our veterans, and that involving the community, especially youth, was an important facet to that.
"Our youth, as cliche as it is to say, are our future," he explained. "A lot of times veterans go unnoticed within our communities. Sometimes we don't know that grandpa or uncle or our neighbor, or some of the people that we have day-to-day contact with, served our country and provided such a great foundation for our freedoms. I think it's important to ensure that those kids know that there are people that came before them that cared enough about them to provide them with the freedoms that they enjoy today."
Throughout the weekend, there are several other Veterans Day activities happening as well. On Veterans Day itself, the American Legion, Edgar M. Boyd Post 37 in Williston will be hosting a program at the New Armory at 11 a.m. Glen Wahus, the state commander for the American Legion, will be featured as the guest speaker for the program. In honor of the 100th anniversary of armistice, Carns will read the names of veterans from Williams County who served in WWI. The Williston Junior High band will be providing music for the program, which will recognize veterans from the Williston area. The American Legion will then host Banquet West for a meal at First Lutheran Church from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.
Provided is a list of Veterans Day celebrations taking place this weekend.
* Nov. 10 at 6 p.m.- Vets Fest at Black Magic Harley-Davidson in Willliston. Bring a canned food donation, enjoy music by Jade's Agenda and take part in the People's Choice Chicken Wing Contest.
* Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. - Annual Marine Corps Birthday Bash at Midway Junction in Williston. Wear your best formal attire and enjoy live music, door prizes and dinner.
* Nov. 11 at 10 a.m. - Veterans Day program hosted by The American Legion, Edgar M. Boyd Post 37 at the Old Armory in Williston. Speakers Glen Wahus and Grant Carns honor Williston area veterans, with a meal by Banquet West at First Lutheran Church at 4 p.m.
*Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. - Great Plains Underground presents Veterans Day Aid, an all-ages concert featuring musicians from around the state. Admission is $5, with veterans entering at no charge. a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project.