ST. PETER — While Congressman Tim Walz got praise as the speaker at the St. Peter Middle/High School Veterans Day program, the most moving part came with a surprise at the end.
Principal Paul Peterson informed the St. Peter-area veterans and community members in the middle of the gymnasium that they were surrounded by about 900 students. And the natural thing for that many students to do, he said, is “cheer like crazy,” which is exactly what they did.
About three dozen veterans stood and received a long standing ovation. Several wiped tears from their eyes.
Del Bauernfeind of Kasota, who served in the Air Force in the 1950s, said he had no idea he and the other veterans would be recognized in such a way.
“It brings tears even to the veterans' eyes,” he said, adding that hearing Walz speak was a big draw for him to the program Monday morning.
“He's an excellent, dynamic speaker,” he said.
Walz said Veterans Day programs should be in schools because it's important for the next generation to understand and perpetuate the importance of duty to country. And young people continue to do just that, he said.
“This generation is still standing up and raising their hands,” said Walz, listing southern Minnesota troops currently serving in Afghanistan as examples.
Those troops, he said, embody the important notion that “people can govern themselves” and “each human spirit has the ability to reach their full potential.” They're serving not only for the good of their home country, but for the future of Afghanistan, so Afghan children can go to school.
So while Walz said thanking veterans on Veterans Day is important, it's more important to continue to remember that freedom comes with responsibility.
“Get engaged,” Walz said. “If you really, really want to honor a veteran, get involved.”