WADENA — In observance of Veterans Day, Wadena-Deer Creek Schools hosted a ceremony Monday with a tribute of patriotic music and speeches in Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School’s gymnasium.
The Veterans Day address was given by retired Maj. Gen. Larry Shellito, who currently serves as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs. As commissioner, Shellito is charged with assisting the state’s 380,000 veterans and their families.
Shellito opened his speech with a compliment to WDC and the community of Wadena in response to the aftermath of the June 17, 2010, tornado. Shellito saw firsthand the destruction as he and Camp Ripley’s National Guard Unit were called to duty to help after the tornado.
“You are absolutely awesome! Your resiliency and ‘can-do’ attitude are truly magnificent. Give yourselves a hand,” Shellito said.
Shellito went on to tell the audience how “history has a history of repeating itself” in regard to war. He then asked veterans in attendance from World War II, Korean War, the Cold War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and Afghanistan, to stand up and be recognized. Each group received a round of applause.
Shellito, who served in the Vietnam War, told the audience he did not talk about his experiences in Vietnam for 25 years, until the day he was asked to give a Veterans Day speech in Alexandria.
“It is my job and your job to make sure when our soldiers come home, that they come all the way home,” Shellito said. Shellito developed the Yellow Ribbon program, which he said started to help ease soldiers’ return to the United States from being overseas.
“The goal of Veterans Day is to stop and reflect on the service of all our veterans,” Shellito said. “Generations before you have shaped how life is today.”
He complimented WDC’s teachers and staff for the essay and poster contests the school organizes which he said helps educate our youth about our veterans.
“Continue to focus on education, that is one of our greatest strengths,” he said.
The program featured a line-up of presenters, speakers and honorees. The program opened with the presentation of colors by the Northwest Minnesota Military Honor Guard made up of servicemen from Bemidji and Moorhead, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Joey Price and Brooke Umland, co-presidents of the Wadena-Deer Creek Student Council.
Directed by Mike Ortmann, the WDC High School choir sang a rendition of the national anthem.
WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom welcomed all in attendance. “We come together today as a community to honor our veterans from all wars,” she said.
Wadena VFW Americanism Chair Jim White presented the WDC administration, faculty and staff with a special certificate recognizing them for their determination and perseverance after the June 17, 2010, tornado.
Superintendent Dahlstrom then introduced Wadena Legion Boys State representative Drew Larson, a WDC senior. Larson shared his experiences at Boys State this past summer at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, and thanked the legion club for sponsoring him.
Next, the WDC grades 5-12 choir students performed “Song of the Unsung Heroes,” under the direction of Ortmann. Elementary music teacher Deb Nelson played piano while senior trumpet player Drew Larson joined in.
Superintendent Dahlstrom introduced the fifth- and sixth-grade essay contest winners who spoke on what patriotic spirit means to them. Those essay winners were: Jasmyn Wood, Maggie Carlson, Courtny Warren, Abigail Motschenbacher, Allison Gedde and Isaac Hale.
The entire K-12 vocal music students performed a montage called “A Tribute to the Armed Services,” which featured each service organization song for the Army, National Guard, Marines, Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force. As each song played, the respective veterans stood up, many singing along to the music and saluting.
The program concluded with WDC band member, Drew Larson, playing the deeply-emotional rendition of “Taps.”
Before the Veterans Day program, the WDC Student Council and the Wadena Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Committee served a pancake and sausage breakfast to more than 50 veterans and their families in the Commons.