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School program salutes veterans

Master Chief Petty Officer Mark P. Helling of the United States Navy will speak at the Nov. 12 Veterans Day program.1 / 2
Meyer Middle School sixth graders, from left, Raina Albores, Olivia Haefner, Kenze Laws, Tyrrel Getzie, Eli Vanderwagen and Nick Longsdorf, are helping get decorations and commemorative bookmarks prepared for the Monday, Nov. 12, Veteran's Day celebration at MMS. <i>Jillian Dexheimer photo</i>2 / 2

On Monday, Nov. 12, Meyer Middle School will host its fourth annual Veteran's Day program.

Last year Principal Mark Chapin estimated that over 500 citiznes and 600 middle school students came to the event. He's hoping that even more attend this year.

With doors opening at 1 p.m., the program will start at 1:30 p.m. with keynote speaker, Master Chief Petty Officer Mark P. Helling of the United States Navy.

Helling, a UW-River Falls graduate was, according to his biography, "...a command individual augmentee coordinator (CIAC) action officer at (the) United States fleet forces command at naval support activity from September 2011 to September 2012" and is currently "...a senior intelligence analyst with TSM Corporation and assigned to a division within (the) United States central command."

He has also completed " as a defense contractor in Baghdad, Iraq in 2009 and Kabul, Afghanistan in 2010."

In addition he has received numerous military awards including: Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Commendation Medal with Gold Star, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Two Gold Stars, Navy Reserve Meritorious Service Medal with Six Bronze Stars, National Defense Medal with Two Bronze Stars, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Two Campaign Stars and more.

In addition to Helling, three students from each middle school grade will share a speech that they wrote titled, "What does Veteran's Day mean to me?"

To honor the veterans in attendance, the MMS choir will perform a military medley, where they will sing each military branch's song, while members of that branch stand. The school band will also perform.

According to Chapin, the military medley is one of his favorite things about the day, "It is pretty powerful," he said.

"There are lots of tears," said Chapin, "they are proud."

After the program, a social time will feature cookies, coffee and juice. "It is a good time for veterans to visit," said Chapin.

To get ready for the event teachers, staff and students have been working on items to be displayed in the school. Sixth grade science teacher Toni Velure has been busy making decorations that will dot the school during the celebration.

In addition, the MMS social studies department, including, Aaron Bryant, Jenny Luedtke, Kari DeLuca, Kris Nickleski, Paul Meyer and Thomas Cox, have taken charge of the event.

Students have made cards and commemorative bookmarks to give to veterans. They will also be greeting visitors, escorting people through the building, passing out programs, serving food and more.

Said Chapin: "It's a cool thing that comes together."

Simple 'thank you'

When asked why we should celebrate Veteran's Day, Chapin said it is "...a great reminder of people who serve or who are currently serving."

Throughout the world on any given day, men and women in the military are serving the United States. "Unless you have somebody that is close to you," said Chapin, "we tend to forget."

Chapin thinks the Veteran's Day celebration is an excellent way to say "thank you."

He encourages anyone out there to make that simple gesture, "just say 'thank you,'" he said.

Chapin, who counts numerous family members as actively serving or having had served in the military, relays a story of a time when he was complaining about his day to his wife, a recent retiree from the Air Force.

At that time, she was stationed overseas. Her reply was, "At least you are not getting shot at."

For Chapin, that comment really put in perspective his complaints and what veterans and those now serving have to deal with each day.

The biggest thing Chapin wants students and the community to take away from the event is that we "cannot forget that we have veterans that have made the ultimate sacrifice."

Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
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