A round of applause and whistles echoed throughout the Brainerd High School gymnasium Monday morning for nearly five minutes before turning into a standing ovation from students and the public, all in honor of the veterans who were already on their feet.
BHS opened its doors to area veterans and the community in its annual Veterans Day program. More than 20 veterans — made up of those who served in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the war in Afghanistan and those serving and deployed overseas to maintain peace — saluted and placed their hands over their hearts as the American Legion Post 255 presented the colors to open the morning’s program.
But what guest speaker Capt. Joe Sanganoo pointed in his speech was not only honoring past and current veterans, but veterans of the future. Sanganoo — serving as the battalion officer in charge of the Minnesota National Guard’s 1st Battalion 194th Armor headquartered in Brainerd with 20 years of service beginning at the age of 19 — asked the students who have recently enlisted to stand, to which four males rose to cheers from classmates.
“We’re here today because of collective efforts from all of our veterans,” said Sanganoo. “But it’s also our future that we have to be aware of with this generation of young men and women who are stepping forward to make the same sacrifices.”
Sanganoo also honored and recognized another student, Eden Powers, whose father, 1st Sgt. Michael Powers, was deployed with Sanganoo and in attendance at Monday’s program.
“When a soldier deploys, an entire community deploys,” Sanganoo said, calling down Eden to join her dad in the chairs set up in the middle of the gym. “For all of the family members like Eden, while we served, you also served.”
Eden’s arms engulfed her dad as the two hugged to more applause from the crowd, something that made the BHS sophomore’s smile widen.
“When I walked down they (classmates) were all saying ‘Hey Eden’ and cheering,” she said. “It was pretty cool.
“I missed him a lot (when he was deployed). We (Eden also has two sisters, Katrina, 23, and Chloey, 13, and a brother, Christian, 17) are a super close family, so it was weird to not have him here.
The elder Powers beamed at his daughter, who added that Eden is involved in the Minnesota Military Teen Panel.
“It’s always great when we can get (embarrass) her a bit,” said Powers, who has been in the service since 1988 and on his battalion’s most recent deployment to Kuwait served as convoy security and ensured U.S. convoys didn’t get attacked. “And this (program) was great and the community’s always been very supportive of its military and military families.”
During his speech, Sanganoo continued to address the students, challenging them to dream big and have the work ethic, values and morals to go with it and reminding them to embrace all that military service members have done for them — past, present and future.
“There are vets that are no longer here with us today,” Sanganoo said. “They gave up their tomorrow for your today.”
BHS Principal Andrea Rusk concluded the program with a quote from last year’s honorary speaker, retired Sgt. Maj. Aubrey Fillbrandt.
“Aubrey Fillbrandt told us last year one quote that sticks with me,” she said. “He (Fillbrandt) said that there five words can mean so much to a veteran.
“And those words were: Thank you for your service.”
The BHS A Cappella Choir, Wind Symphony and Chamber Orchestra also performed at the program. Musical pieces included “Intermezzo,” “An American Hymn” and “The Thunderer.”