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Emmet County honors its veterans

By Staff | Nov 12, 2009

Local veterans organizations and Iowa National Guard members helped honor veterans past and present in Estherville Wednesday at the World War I monument in Library Square. Above, a salute was fired just prior to the playing of Taps. EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

ARMSTRONG, ESTHERVILLE – “The real heroes are the ones who are not here.”

“Anyone would have done the same thing had he been in the same circumstance.”

“I didn’t do it for a medal. I did it for the guys on each side of me.”

“I really don’t remember what happened. A year later, though, they pinned this medal on my chest.”

Do any of those statements sound familiar?

Above, Armstrong-Ringsted elementary students recited the Pledge of Allegiance. EDN photos by Michael Tidemann

If so, they are are the statements of heroes, those who have been to hell and back and been able to talk about it.

They are humble statements, words by common men who climbed down from their tractors and closed up their shops and fought in places like Normandy and Okinawa, Luncheon and Khe Sanh, places the public forgot but places they will never forget. Places forged into their minds as strongly as the smiles on the faces of their best buddies who never walked again on American soil.

They returned from overseas and climbed back on their tractors again. Or opened mechanic shops. Or put on a butcher’s apron. Common men of uncommon valor whose bond – the knowledge of what war is really like – will remain with them through eternity.

On Wednesday, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, veterans from throughout Emmet County gathered together to remember the fallen and those among us who have served.

Several hundred students, veterans and members of the public met at the Armstrong-Ringsted High School gym and at the World War I monument in Library Square in Estherville to honor veterans, past and present.

Veterans remembered the fallen.

“We are here to honor those who served our country,” said Jon Larsen, A-R High School teacher and himself a veteran. “At one time we were young guys. We left to serve our country.” He called upon the youth in the crowd to serve their country when called upon as well.

“I’m honored to be here this morning,” said Senior Master Sgt. (ret.) Marlene Nyman, guest speaker. “Veterans Day is a day to honor and to celebrate those who have defended our country.”

“I come to you as a veteran. I know what it’s like to have a son go out the door and not come back in again.”

Nyman spoke of meeting her husband in San Antonio, Texas, when he was active duty Air Force and their decision to join the Air National Guard together. Today, their daughters, Allison, 25, and Kristin, 23, have served in the military – something of which both parents are profoundly proud. Allison is now a first lieutenant in munitions maintenance stationed in Great Falls, Mont., and Kristin trained as a security specialist.

When she asked her daughters why they chose such dangerous military occupational specialties, they laughed.

Above, A-R grades kindergarten through 12th grade sang “We are the World”.

“I believe every American citizen should serve their country in one way or another,” Nyman said, citing her own daughters as an example.

She then focused on the most poignant part of her address – the loss of her son when he was 10.

One day he walked out the front door, but never came back again, something mothers of American soldiers have done since the country began. While she had the chance to be with her son before he died, that is not the case with many of those mothers, Nyman said.

“Freedom is not really free. There’s a price to be paid,” Nyman said.

At the World War I monument in Estherville, Rev. Glenn Bohmer quoted Isaiah “and how they will hammer their swords into plowshares.” He also said we must be prepared to defend our nation.

Rev. Bohmer spoke of solemnity, sadness and pride – solemnity to honor our veterans, sadness for those who have been lost and pride “because they have served and fought so well.’

“Veterans Day is also for honoring these young people who are the vanguard for protection of this generation,” Bohmer said.