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Honoring the veterans: Schimke speaks at Veterans Day program at Wolsey-Wessington School

Posted: Wednesday, Nov 14th, 2012

Wessington Springs native 1st Lieutenant Chris Schimke of the 153rd Engineering Battalion of the Army National Guard in Huron spoke at the Wolsey-Wessington School for its Veterans Day program. In the next photo, members of the American Legion and Auxiliary of Wolsey, Wessington and Virgil present the colors during the Veterans Day Program in Wolsey on Monday. Shown next are Wolsey-Wessington elementary students who recited Veterans Day poems at the Veterans Day Program on Monday. PHOTOS BY KARA GUTORMSON

WOLSEY — Hundreds of people gathered at Wolsey-Wessington School to commemorate Veterans Day with a special program on Monday.

Members of the Wolsey-Wessington band played and the choir sung several patriotic tunes. Students in kindergarten, first, second and third grade recited Veterans Day poems.

Marvin Palmer of Huron received his high school diploma at the ceremony. Palmer was 17 when he enlisted and served in the Army from 1963 to 1965. “I really enjoyed it, getting my diploma after all these years,” said Palmer. “I started out as a medical Corpsman and then became an ambulance driver,” he said. “I served my entire tour in France and Germany.”

This year’s guest speaker was Wessington Springs native 1st Lieutenant Chris Schimke, of the 153rd Engineering Battalion of the National Guard in Huron. Schimke, a former high school teacher, currently works for Farm Credit Services of America. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Veterans are people who understand that loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage and sacrifice — they aren’t just words,” he said. “To us, they are more than words. They are acts. They are deeds. They are something that someone has done for someone else.”

Veterans come from all walks of life and from all backgrounds, he added. “There are 21.5 million veterans in the United States. This number represents people of all races in America.” Schimke said that many of those veterans, almost 2 million, are women. “And yet, this number does not reflect the millions of veterans who served in the Cold War,” he said. “There are many people who have never served in a battle who could be considered veterans.”

Many veterans choose to remain silent about their service, while others talk openly about it, explained Schimke. “All of us have stories about our experience. Some of those stories end badly. But many more of those stories end well.”

Being a veteran means that throughout your life, you have experienced the lowest of lows and more than likely, the highest of highs, Schimke said. “One of the great bonds that veterans share is the understanding that life has peaks and life has valleys.”

“As a group, veterans have a pretty good understanding of combat, what it looks like and what the effects are. But we also understand that the best way to keep peace in our time is to be prepared for war.”

Schimke said there are three ways others can help to honor all veterans. “It starts with the youth,” he said. “The number one way to honor veterans in your community is to get an education. I’m not saying that you have to go to college or to tech school or become a doctor or a lawyer,” he explained. “Get your high school diploma, because our American way of life requires that we become educated. In order to have freedom of expression and be who we want to be, in order to have that, we must first have freedom of thought.”

Secondly, educate yourself about important issues facing our nation, he said. “Look beyond the talking heads on TV, listen past the announcer on the radio and read past the reporter’s slant in the newspaper.”

Educate yourself and think for yourself, he urged. “Form your own opinions. Do not accept that what the news media tells you is fact.”

Schimke concluded by saying that the third way to honor veterans is to participate in the political process by voting. “Your freedoms can’t be taken away by force,” he said. “However, if you don’t become educated and think for yourselves, you can give your freedom away unwittingly in the voting booth.”

He concluded his speech by urging everyone to think about the freedoms and rights all Americans enjoy, the rights that veterans have worked hard to maintain.

For the complete article see the 11-13-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 11-13-2012 paper.

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