By Solomon Gustavo
DASSEL, COKATO, MN - “Searching for birthday cards for my mother, I noticed there were no Veterans Day cards,” Dassel-Cokato community Veterans Day program keynote speaker Steve Ellis said during his speech. “I thought, that’s odd, there are cards for everything.”
Ellis centered his message around showing appreciation, not just on Veterans Day, not just with a card, should they be made available, but continuously.
“We can make Veterans Day 365,” Ellis said before providing examples of how to show gratitude during chance interactions with veterans.
One time, while at McDonald’s, Ellis said he saw a veteran wearing a hat from his branch of service. Ellis said he walked up to the man, said “excuse me sir, I like your hat,” and thanked him.
Another example, this time at a gas station, standing next to his car as it filled with gas, Ellis said a car pulled up to the pump next to his. A veteran hopped out dressed in uniform.
“I said hello. I swiped my card on his pump and thanked him for serving,” Ellis said. “Their hands changed history. Ours need to honor and preserve it.”
The Veterans Day program at Dassel-Cokato High School Nov. 11 began with a welcome by Dassel-Cokato Middle School Principal Alisa Johnson and colors presented by the Color Guard of the Cokato American Legion Post 209. The high school band and choir led all in singing the “Star Spangled Banner” before the first guest speaker, Darcie Pringnitz, gave a presentation on her uncle’s service.
“I am not a veteran,” Pringnitz began, “ but I am the daughter, daughter-in-law, niece, cousin, and friend of veterans.” Her uncle, Merlin Allen, served in Vietnam. Allen was shot down in a helicopter. Pringnitz and her family were told there were no survivors, but no bodies were found.
Allen’s remains were not located for another 46 years, but, once finally given the opportunity in 2015, Pringnitz said, Allen’s family, friends, and entire hometown community gathered to show gratitude.
Later in the prgram, the song “Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier” was performed by the middle school eighth grade girls choir.
Two students, middle schooler Dylan Seaberg and high schooler Katrina Thinesen, presented essays titled “What Veterans Day Means to Me.”
“What Veterans Day means to me is sacrifice,” Seaberg said, standing on a stool to give his message. “They don’t know us, yet they still fight for us.”
“Freedom and safety has been fought for, not simply given,” said Thinesen. “We owe all veterans our lives and our respect.”
Lenore Brown, on behalf of Quilts of Valor, presented quilts to the gathered veterans, followed by Ellis’ keynote speech and “Song for the Unsung Hero” performed by the high school concert choir.
Two high school trumpeters, WIlliam Cronk and Marit Thostenson, played a song, followed by the Dassel American Legion Post 364 going outside to carry out volley fires, and the high school band playing “Armed Forces Medley.” During the medley, veterans were invited to stand and receive recognition as their military branch song played.
The high school band led the audience in singing “God Bless the USA.” High school principal Dean Jennissen, a veteran himself, ended the ceremony with closing remarks. The Dassel American Legion Post 364 Color Guard retired the colors.
Afterwards, veterans filed into the community room to enjoy refreshments.