ST CLOUD AREA METROVETS retired the colors at the end of the Veterans ceremony at the St. Cloud VA Hospital Monday. (Photos by Ken Francis.)

Heroes remembered at VA

Subhead: 
Staff Writer
Ken Francis

 

Veterans Day at the St. Cloud VA Hospital had an unexpected guest when Gov. Mark Dayton attended the ceremony and spoke to the few hundred people who had gathered to honor the nation’s veterans.
Dayton’s name was not on the program that was handed out to all the visitors who attended, so it was a surprise to many when he approached the podium to address the crowd. 
He addressed the veterans:
“Thank you for risking your lives to save ours. Thank you for protecting our democracy, our freedoms and our way of life. Thank you for defending and advancing the cause of liberty all over the world.” He said Armistice Day, which later became Veterans Day, was given its name after World War I, which at the time was called the “War to end all wars.”
  “Well unfortunately, that turned out to be over-optimistic. Since then millions of American men and women have been called to duty in war times and peace times. I witnessed some of their legacies. Twice I stood on the beaches of Normandy at the water’s edge and looked at the well-fortified German bunkers straight ahead and tried to imagine the horror of disembarking into that hellfire. 
I visited the nearby American cemetery where over 10,000 white crosses stare silently, each one marking an American soldier who lost his life for us. My uncle Douglas Dayton passed a way a couple of months ago. He was a tank commander during World War II. He told us about being wedged into a tank, engaging enemy fire, knowing the tanks around him were being destroyed and wondering if his next breath would be his last. He was fortunate, and so are you who are with us today. My uncle’s heroism and your heroism were just as great as those brave Americans who gave their lives in battle. You put yourselves in the same dangers, faced the same risks and deserve the same high honors. You deserve a grateful nation to remember and say thank you.”
Dayton said he once read a book by Richard Ketchum called The Winter Soldiers. It describes the fierce winter of 1776 when George Washington and his revolu- Vets Continued On Page 2
tionary army’s desperate attempts to survive.
“It captures the incredible heroism, patriotism and courage that resides in the hearts and souls of our nation's veterans.
The author writes, their chances to win their freedom and establish a democracy looked almost hopeless when General George Washington  assembled them near Princeton NJ on Dec 30, 1776. They stood in snow lying six inches deep on the ground in cold more severe than anyone could remember. They had no uniforms, just rags on their backs. Many were bare-legged and others had strips of blankets wrapped around their feet for lack of shoes. However, most of them were about to go home. They had only one more day remaining before their one year enlistments were completed. As they stood there shivering in the cold General Washington thanked them for their heroic service and then implored them to remain with him for a few weeks more until fresh troops arrived and could be trained. 
But no one stepped forward to reenlist. Washington, aware that their silent refusal meant the end of everything, tried again. 
According to an eyewitness account, he said “you've done all that I've asked you to do, worn yourselves out with fatigue and hardships. But your country is at stake. If you'll consent to stay only one month longer, you'll render that service to the cause of liberty and to your country, which you probably never could do under any other circumstances. 
There was another pause. Then a lone veteran stepped forward saying he could not go home if the army and his country needed him. Slowly, others stepped forward to join him and then others until only those who were too feeble or naked to face anything more remained in the original line.
At that moment, the extraordinary act of a single veteran saved Washington’s army, won our freedom and launched our amazing country. 
“You our nation’s veterans have carried on that great tradition. Every time you've been called to duty you have protected the rest of us, our country and  our way of life. 
That spirit - the willingness to do whatever it takes, to endure every hardship and make any sacrifice, is the source of our nation's greatness. 
It is what we are all called upon to do and it is what you, our veterans, have shown us how to do. So again, let me say to you, thank you.”

photos


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