Veterans, active members of the military, and families: Thank you for your sacrifice and service! This is the message of Veterans Day, which occurs this Monday, November 11. In Vermillion and around Clay County, several programs will commemorate this important holiday.
Veterans Day, first known as Armistice or Remembrance Day until it was renamed in 1954, has been celebrated since 1919. The day began as a celebration of the end of World War I, which formally ended in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 and grew into a day to recognize all veterans and service members. The day continues to be a day of recognition of military members and a day to highlight all branches of the military.
Vermillion’s Veterans Day Celebration
Everyone is invited to attend the 2019 community Veterans Day program, co-hosted by American Legion Post 1 and Vermillion High School, to be held at the high school beginning at 9:45 a.m. Monday. The event will feature patriotic music, including a performance by special guest singer Mitchell Olson and the VHS Concert Choir, a celebration of veterans and their families, the recognition of student Veterans Day-themed contest winners, and an address by keynote speaker LT Tom Muenster, retired U.S. Navy.
“Tom Muenster is the son of Ted Muenster, both former Vermillion residents,” said VHS Social Studies teacher Lenni Billberg, who helps coordinate the Veterans Day program at the high school. “Tom served in the Navy and is retired and lives in Burbank today. He also served most recently on the commissioning of the USS South Dakota. His presentation will be a little about that.”
This is the sixth year that Vermillion’s community Veterans Day program is being held at the high school. Billberg conceived of the idea a few years ago as a way to get more young people involved in the event. Now, every child in Vermillion has the opportunity to witness the program in person or via live webcast.
“Students from the high school and Austin School will attend in person and the Middle School and Jolley School will join us on our webcast online so all of our students will join us,” said Billberg. “We also have a small contingent from St. Agnes participating in the program as well. I believe they also usually watch the webcast at the school.
“Our average attendance is usually 200 to 250 Vermillion residents and then the whole student body of Vermillion Schools,” she said. “We also have a large number of people that watch us online. We only did a web count one time and had around 1,000 people/computers opening the program that day.”
Having young people involved in the Veterans Day celebration is important, said Billberg.
“Several years ago, I was given the opportunity to attend the Veterans ceremony when it was held at the W.H. Over Museum,” Billberg said. “After that time, it became my dream to somehow make it possible for all of our students to get to experience the event, to know the sacrifice of their neighbors. Six years ago, I approached the American Legion, the overseers of the program, with my dream and a possible speaker idea. Thankfully, they were all for it and we have been at the high school ever since!”
Each year, different groups of young people contribute to the Veterans Day program. This year, attendees will hear special music provided by the St. Agnes and Jolley Elementary fifth graders and the VHS Choir, watch a video honoring veterans created by middle school students, and hear from student essay winners.
“This year we have a secret special presentation for [a Vermillion teacher] who is retiring from the National Guard after almost 43 years in December,” Billberg said. “We will also have a special song with a group from Vermillion’s Concert Band, Concert Choir, and Mitchell Olson. The high school gym is the place to be on Monday at 9:45!”
Monday’s Veterans Day program is a celebration that should not be missed, she said.
“The Vermillion Veteran’s Ceremony is a wonderful celebration of our service people, but also a place wherein our entire school community comes together to celebrate, remember, and honor our veterans,” she said. “We have representation from all schools as well as work in conjunction with the American Legion Vermillion Wallace Post 1.”
Celebration in Wakonda
In northern Clay County, in the Irene-Wakonda School District, a Veterans Day program, hosted by the high school FCCLA group, will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the elementary school in Wakonda. The program, which will include music by Irene-Wakonda elementary, junior high, and high school students, will be attended by all I-W elementary students, area veterans, and interested members of the public.
A special feature of Wakonda’s Veterans Day program is that veterans in the area receive individual invitations to attend the event, which includes a free lunch for veterans and their special guests following the program. The lunch is hosted and served by FCCLA students.