Veterans Day Program honors local men and women

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Front from left are veteran recipients of Quilts of Valor Robert Ferguson, Lorimer Olson, Forrest Thein, Chuck Siebrecht, John Meyer; second row, Allan Wright, Don Koss, Harlan Backhaus, Ronald Judkins, Sr.; third row, Larry Moser, Lanny Kuehl, Derek A. Moser, Sr.; fourth row, Roger Leonard, Michael Schmelzer, Isaac Franzen; fifth row, Randolph Gohde, Gerald Frye, Tammy Sylvester; last row, Dave Broxson, Gail Judkins Broxson, and Kenneth McClellan. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

The Clayton Ridge High School gymnasium overflowed with red, white, and blue on Veterans Day as community members, students, faculty, and families gathered to honor area vets. The 90-minute ceremony, led by Dennis Hanna, featured music by the German Band and members of the school band, and songs sung by faculty and retired faculty members. 

After the colors were presented, VFW essay contest winners Kaitlyn Kuehl-Berns and Grace Meier accompanied sixth grader David Muller, whose essay won first place in the state American Legion Flag Essay Contest, in leading the Pledge of Allegiance. 

“Veterans are not distant historical footnotes, but are as close as a father, mother, brother or sister, grandfather or grandmother, friend or neighbor,” quoted Hanna. The statement rang true as the band played Salute to America’s Finest, calling the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Air Force veterans in the audience to the stage as each of their songs was played. Slowly, veterans seated in the audience joined their comrades at the front of the room. First 40, then 60, then 80 to 100 veterans from Guttenberg, Garnavillo, and the surrounding area formed a sea of strong faces as audience members rose to their feet in honor of these men and women.

On behalf of Quilts of Valor: Guttenberg Veterans' Angels, Rosalie Kickbush thanked veterans for their service and sacrifice with the presentation of 24 handmade quilts, given to: Isaac Franzen, Army, Afghanistan/Iraq; John Meyer, Navy, WWII; Loras Heck, Army, WWII; Forrest Thein, Marines, WWII; Kenneth McClellan, Navy, Vietnam; Derek Moser, Sr., Navy, Afghanistan/Iraq; Larry Moser, Navy, Vietnam; Michael Schmelzer, Army, Vietnam; Allan Wright, Army, Vietnam; Lorimer Olson, Air Force, Great Britain; Robert Ferguson, Army, Korea; Gerald Frye, Army, Korea; Gerald Hoeger, Army, Korea; Chuck Siebrecht, Marines, Vietnam; Lanny Kuehl, Navy, Vietnam; Roger Leonard, Army, Cuban Missile; Don Koss, Army, Korea; Tammy Sylvester, Navy, Gulf/Desert Storm; Harlan Backhaus, Army, Korea; Randolph Gohde, Army, Vietnam; and Kyle Eastmann, Marines, Iraq. Each quilt was presented with a hug.

Ronald Judkins, Sr., and his daughter Gail Judkins Broxson, along with her husband, Dave Broxson, all received Quilts of Valor from the Guttenberg Veterans' Angels on Wednesday. 

Ronald Judkins, Sr. was in the Air Force from 1954 – 1960.  He worked in organizational supply and received an honorable discharge with the rank of Airman First Class.

Gail served in the Navy from 1982 – 1986 during the Cold War Conflict. She made two Indian Ocean cruises, and some of her duties were deck crew, helmsman/lead helmsman, and ASROC rover. She was also the first female to hold the position of lithographer on the East Coast. Gail was honorably discharged as a Third Class Petty Officer.

Her husband, Dave Broxson, served in the Navy from 1983 – 1988 during the Cold War Conflict. He made one Indian Ocean cruise and held positions including duty weapons, training Petty Officers, line handler, nuclear weapons destruction team, ASROC weapons tech, and top secret publications custodian.  His rank was second class Petty Officer.

Quilts of Valor Foundation’s mission is to comfort, honor, and thank our present wounded service members and our veterans of any combat era. Each quilt has a QOVF label with the veteran’s name and information, and many have hand written thank-you notes inside. Stitched with love, prayers, and healing thoughts, quilts are 80 x 65 inches or larger. 

Before entertaining the audience with a musical number, retired Clayton Ridge teacher Bruce Bryant reminded the crowd, “I’ve been here for about 34 years now. Year after year I’m watching, and what makes this thing so great is Dennis Hanna.” Hanna has organized the annual Veterans Day assembly for well over 30 years, and is a director emeritus of Hawkeye American Legion Boys State as well as a lifetime member of the VFW. He served in the Navy from 1950-54 in a VF61 fighter squadron, spending most of his time in the service at sea. 

Hanna read Duty, Honor, Country, backed by a powerful band performance, and then invited members of Post 373, VFW Post 11503, and Amvets Post 15 to perform the flag folding ceremony. American Legion Commander Frank Davis, Commander Larry Moser, and James Feudner of Peoples State Bank presented flags to 2015 Boys State representatives Andrew Burgin, Dominick Knudtson, Jared Gerner and Tyler Bolsinger. 

The Veterans Day assembly concluded with the high school chamber choir singing the Star Spangled Banner in acapella and the retiring of the colors. High school principal Andy Peterson spoke to those in attendance, echoing the spirit of the holiday. “We are very, very fortunate to have so many veterans with us here today.”

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