‘All veterans have given something of themselves to this country’
SPEARFISH — “Across this great country and throughout the world, Americans will pause this Sunday to honor our brave fighting men and women, who for more than 240 years have guaranteed our freedom by their duty, honor, and selfless service,” Fred Nelson, an Air Force veteran from Spearfish and keynote speaker at the annual Veterans Day Program at Spearfish Middle School, said Friday. “We recognize that all veterans have given something of themselves to this country, and some have given all, laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we hold so dear.”
There were nearly 100 veterans in attendance at the program in the gymnasium. Spearfish Middle School Student Council members emceed the program, the student choir and band provided patriotic music, and the Black Hills Chapter of the American Legion Riders presented and retired the colors. Veterans were seated in a special section during the program, and at one point, the military branch songs were played and veterans of that branch were asked to stand and be recognized.
“To all veterans: Thank you for answering the call to duty. You have made our armed forces the most respected in the world,” Nelson said. He described to the students that he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during his senior year of high school, eventually becoming an RC-135 aircraft crew chief. This role brought with it overseas travel, including a deployment to Khartoum, Sudan, in support of Operation Arid Farmer. In 1987, he was reassigned as a maintenance controller with the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, and later that year he was transferred to Field Training Detachment 409, Ellsworth Air Force Base, where he served as an Air Training Command instructor and obtained the rating of Master Instructor, teaching new airmen how to be successful crew chiefs.
Nelson has worked at Black Hills State University for the last 23 years, managing the information technology department, and he is an active member of the Spearfish American Legion Post 164, Black Hills Chapter of the American Legion, and Sons of the American Legion.
Nelson reminded the students that the veterans they saw before them came from all walks of life but shared fundamental qualities like courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty, and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause greater than oneself.
“Our veterans didn’t go to war because they love fighting; they were called to be part of something bigger than themselves,” he said. “They were ordinary people that responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation’s call because they wanted to protect the nation which has given them, and us, so much.”
Nelson added that this year, the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, which ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, and that day was declared Armistice Day eight years after the end of the Great War.
“As time went on, and we engaged in further conflicts during World War II and Korea, veterans groups rallied for a change,” Nelson said, describing that in 1954, Veterans Day became the new name of the day of observance. “Rather than honoring armistice, and only those who served in World War I, the holiday would now honor all veterans from every war and conflict in the United States that we had encountered.”
Each speaker thanked everyone for attending and reminded them of the importance of recognizing those who serve and appreciating the freedoms for which they fought.
“If we want to preserve our freedoms, we must put them into action … Veterans Day isn’t just a day for veterans; it’s a day for all Americans,” Aidan Hirsch, Spearfish Middle School Student Council member, said. “It’s a day to remember why they were fighting and a day for all of us to begin our journey of protecting our freedom and the freedom of many future generations. Thank you for joining us in honoring our veterans today. Let us walk toward tomorrow still honoring them by living in the freedom they protected.”
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