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Emmetsburg Celebrates Veterans Day
November 14, 2017

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by Anna Veltri

Palo Alto County observed Veteran's Day on Friday, Nov. 10. Many veterans and their families attended a ceremony at the Emmetsburg V.F.W. The Master of Ceremonies for the event was Senior Vice Commander Bill Harris. This year's guest speaker was First Sergeant AJ Poeppe. AJ and his wife, Nicole, are both army veterans.

Each year at the ceremony, the Auxiliary to the VFW selects three essays written by students in fourth, seventh, and eighth grade. The fourth-grade essay topic was "I love America because" This year's winner was Paige Steinkamp. The seventh and eighth graders' theme was "America's gift to my generation." The eighth-grade competition was won by Quinn Swift.

"America, land of the free, home of the brave," Quinn's essay began. "Most every American can wake up in the morning and have a sense of security. In other countries, you could be worrying that there is going to be a battle near you."

Quinn stated that Americans have many wonderful freedoms that other countries do not. Many citizens of other countries are oppressed and potentially fearful for their lives daily.

The winner of the seventh-grade competition was Quinn's brother, Gavin Swift who also had the chance to read his article. All three winners will have the opportunity for their essays to enter the district competition for judgement.

Emmetsburg resident First Sergeant AJ Poeppe was this year's guest speaker.

"Today is our day to remember those who have served this nation in the armed forces, and those that continue to serve. We gather here to recognize the efforts of all services who sacrificed both at war and at peace to protect America and our freedoms," Sergeant Poeppe began. "As we gather here on this peaceful November day, thousands of Iowans serve in harm's way around the globe."

Iowans are currently serving all across the world, helping bring freedom to countries like Afghanistan all while maintaining the safety and freedom of Americans back home.

"Today we honor the service of our courageous Americans. Whether in wartime or peace these veterans have served our nation with distinction and honor," Sergeant Poeppe continued.

Sergeant Poeppe explained that Veterans Day originated nearly 100 years ago at the end of World War I. Armistice Day recognized the cease fire of "The Great War" on November 11, 1918.

"The vast majority of veterans that we honor today no longer wear the uniform. Nearly 22 million currently living Americans have served our nation as a member of the armed forces. Approximately seven percent of our citizens have protected and preserved the freedom for the other ninety-three," Sergeant Poeppe noted. "Today, more than 240,000 living Iowans have proudly served our country and earned the title, Veteran."

Sergeant Poeppe commented that many veterans continue to serve their communities and nations even after they have retired or been discharged. "For veterans service isn't a phase in their lives, but a lifelong commitment,"Sergeant Poeppe explained.

"On October 7, 2017, marked the sixteenth continuous year that U.S. forces have operated in Afghanistan seeking justice for those Americans killed in terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001," Sergeant Poeppe stated. "A little less than three million Americans currently serve in our active duty, reserve, and national guard forces around the world. That is less than one percent of our nation providing security and peace for the other 99 percent."

Sergeant Poeppe stated that it is concerning that a large percentage of members of the U.S. military come from families that have had a relative serve previously. According to the Department of Defense, more than 80% of service members come from a family where a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, or cousin have served in the military.

More than 25% of those currently serving had at least one parent that served. He also stated that there is a concern about the future of the military because today, only three of ten 17-21 year-olds are eligible to serve for various reasons. To help with the future of the military, the Department of Defense opened up all positions to women should they be physically capable to perform the job.

The Emmetsburg Catholic school's choir performed songs of freedom for the ceremony. They were directed by Mrs. Kelly Fog.

Thank you to all those that have served to protect our freedom. Make sure to not only recognize our nation's veterans on Veterans Day, but to thank a veteran every day of the year.

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