BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Delano students, staff, and community members took time Nov. 10 to observe Veterans Day a day early.
Navy veteran Tim Roth, in his keynote address, noted that veterans are not anonymous or distant, as it may seem at times.
“Today, on Veterans Day, it’s important for us to realize the veterans of our country’s military we’re honoring today are not superhuman comic book characters, they’re not pro wrestlers, or ultimate fighters, or Hollywood actors,” Roth said. “They don’t come from far-away places. They’re your brothers and sisters. They’re your aunts and uncles. They’re your parents. They’re your grandparents. They’re my grandfathers.”
Roth borrowed the term citizen soldier from author Stephen Ambrose, who wrote a book by the same name that details the US military in Europe during World War II.
“Mr. Ambrose emphasizes our military during that war was made up of citizen soldiers, regular people, citizens who joined the military to serve the country in times of need and then returned to their lives, careers, and families when their service time ended,” Roth said.
He quoted Ambrose as writing, “Hitler had been sure his young men would outfight the young Americans. He was certain the spoiled sons of democracy couldn’t stand up to the solid sons of dictatorship.”
“We know, today, he was wrong about that,” Roth said. “We know it was the American military, full of citizen soldiers, who triumphed.”
He added that he believes all US military veterans are citizen soldiers.
While some other countries have historically had professional militaries made up of individuals who grew up practicing to be soldiers and imagining war as a glorious destiny, the US military is made up of citizen soldiers with dreams and aspirations, Roth said.
“Whether they volunteered for military service or were drafted, in most cases, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines of our military had other plans for their lives, post military plans,” Roth said. “They gave selflessly of their time and talent during military service. It’s this service we recognize on Veterans Day, the giving up a part of a person’s life for something greater than themselves.”
He spoke of the sacrifices veterans have made, as many have given their lives, while those who return often have wounds, both visible and invisible. One sacrifice is being away from one’s family.
Roth recalled returning from deployment and watching as certain sailors and Marines left the ship first to meet babies who had been born while they were serving.
“That’s something that’s very emotional, and something I’ll never forget: that sacrifice,” Roth said. “No dad probably ever expects to be away from their baby when they’re born, but we know it happens every day because there are watches that need to be stood. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines stand those watches 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.”
Considering the program was one day before Veterans Day, Roth took the opportunity to challenge those in attendance to take a moment to remember all that veterans have done for America.
“This year, tomorrow, and hopefully every Nov. 11, I’d like to ask that each of us set aside a couple minutes to pay respect to the men and women who have worn our country’s uniform and helped to secure all the gifts we, as Americans, enjoy every day, gifts we may not have if it weren’t for our veterans,” Roth said.
He especially encouraged the students, telling them they will soon inherit the country, and that they are only limited by their determination and ability to dream, thanks to the sacrifices veterans have made.
“Please remember, wherever life may take you and whatever you may choose to do, it’s never out of style to love your country and be grateful for the many gifts we have because of veterans,” Roth concluded.
In addition to hearing from Roth, those in attendance also had the opportunity to witness Lt. Col. Patricia Osmon being promoted to colonel.
Lt. Col. Kevin Price presided over the ceremony, and explained that Osmon will now be one step below a general and in charge of 3,000 to 5,000 individuals.
In addition to being promoted, Osmon also received a meritorious service medal with her mother and daughter by her side.
A number of students were also recognized.
Delano Middle School student Maya Rodriguez delivered her winning Patriot’s Pen Essay titled “America’s Gift to My Generation,” while runners-up Victoria Shafer and Victoria VanderHeiden were also recognized.
“America’s gift to my generation is the expectation that we will expand our hearts and minds to learn how to improve our world,” Rodriguez began.
She spoke of a responsibility to care for those less fortunate and for supporting veterans in need.
In a world where hate and cruelty exist, Rodriguez said, “America, you gave us the leaders and inspiration to plan, protect, defend, and help the future. America’s gift to our generation may not be something you can hold in your hand, but you can feel the passion and the potential for change . . . America, we promise your gift will not go to waste.”
DHS student Lauren Degn delivered her essay titled “What Does Democracy Mean to Me,” which won the American Legion Scholarship Essay Contest, while runners-up Sydney Strobl and Rachel Ditty were also recognized.
“To me, democracy means I am equal, I can participate, and I am protected,” Degn read.
She expounded on each of those ideals.
Everyone is expected to abide by the same laws, and no one is above the law, she said.
“This is essential to the functioning and well-being of the society,” she said.
Citizen participation in the government sets democracy apart from other forms of government, Degn continued.
“A democracy allows me to vote in free and fair elections, something I have often taken for granted,” Degn said.
She believes protection comes in multiple forms.
“My unalienable rights will be forever protected by my democracy, no matter my race, religion, or what state I live in,” Degn said. “Sitting alongside those unalienable rights are the Bill of Rights, protecting my freedom of speech, right to bear arms, and the right to a fair trial. Equally important is the physical protection offered by my democracy.”
She concluded her essay by recognizing the protection that veterans have provided.
Degn was also recognized for attending Girl State, as was Ashley Bruzek.
The Post 377 baseball team was also recognized.