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Minnesota National Guard
Rush City students thank their 'heroes' on Vets Day

Veterans Day holds meaning for many people in honor of military veterans, past and present, who have put their country before themselves

The federal holiday on Nov 11 also holds special meaning for five Rush City Area High School students who are extremely proud of their own military heroes — dads, brothers, uncles, grandfathers and great grandfathers

ydnie kellyjpg

Sydnie with father Mathew Kelly, holding little sister Baylee, during an event in Hinckley Photo supplied

There’s no mistaking eighth grader Sydnie Kelly is proud of her dad, Mathew Kelly, a Minnesota National Guardsman who is currently serving a tour in Iraq He was deployed about six months ago and is due back in March

“The first couple of months were hard, but it got easier with the e-mails, cards and calls But (missing him) is still in the back of your mind though,” said Sydnie, who loves her dad’s noon phone calls each and every Sunday

Sydnie was born in 1996 on a US Air Force base in Turkey, where her father was stationed at the time She didn’t call Rush City home until a few moves later, when she was about 2 years old

So she has come to appreciate and even verbally defend those like her father who serve all over the world, sometimes in hostile situations, to help maintain a good life back home

“It makes me proud,” said Sydnie “We do the things we do because of what my dad and others are doing — serving their country”

Sometimes, however, service men and women aren’t appreciated where they are stationed Such was the case a year ago in the Gulf of Mexico, recalled Sydnie, where her father was doing some training “He went out one day to get something to eat and was spit on by the people there,” she explained “He’s also been called a baby killer before”

Her reaction: “It makes me mad because they should be proud of him We have done a lot for them but they don’t understand it”

Reflecting on Veterans Day, Sydnie noted she is “really proud” of all military veterans now and in the past “Because without them, it would be a totally different lifestyle than we have now”

randon elmerjpg

Brandon Elmer with father Jeff Elmer, a career soldier in the US Army “My dad has had a substantial impact on me and the person I am" Photo supplied

Rush City classmate Brandon Elmer is also proud of his father Jeff Elmer, a career soldier in the Army

“His service means a lot to me,” he stressed “To me it means not only a lot of worrying but a lot of pride for him and what he does for this country and all the people who live in it” 

Brandon continued, “Veterans Day means a chance to honor and celebrate the many great deeds they have done for the people of this country My dad has had a substantial impact on me and the person I am He has taught me many of the Army values that have taught me to have a greater respect for others and be tolerant of others”

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Rush City student Tom Jungels is proud of his family in the military Here, from left: Paul, 25, National Guard; Jeff, 37, National Guard; Eric, 27, National Guard; and Rob, 48, Navy Photo supplied

Tom Jungels, 18, a junior, has already started to enlist with the National Guard as all three of his brothers have done

“It’s become sort of a tradition, but I do want to serve my country,” he explained

Two of his brothers, Eric, 27, and Paul, 25, have served on tours in Iraq, while two of his uncles, one in the Air Force and other in the Navy, were also overseas in the past year

“It’s an obligation for all Americans to do something for their country,” said Tom “The fact that (people in the service) are putting their lives on the line for their country is moving”

Sharing his thoughts on Veterans Day, Brandon explained, “This is the day I get to say thanks to those who have put there lives on the line and those who have died putting their lives on the line And it’s special”

Hunter Leigland

Fourteen-year-old Hunter Leigland, an eighth grader at Rush City High, looks up to his father, Army Sgt Eric Leigland, whose 25 years in the service included a tour with the Marines in the first Gulf War

Dad also trained troops to go overseas in the first four years following 9/11 while activated at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin

“It makes me proud my dad is in the military,” said Hunter “He’s one of the few people who is willing to risk his life for our country He’s taught me to respect my elders and listen to what they have to say I’ll listen to any veteran any day

“Every veteran is a hero, and they deserve to be respected,” he added

Hunter is glad the high school is supporting our troops and military veterans through “Thank a Veteran Week,” which includes an opportunity where students can eat lunch with a veteran or recruiter

What would Hunter have say if given the chance to sit with a true American hero? “I’d say, ‘Thank you for serving our country and risking your life for us back home’”

Hunter appreciates all service members, no matter the task at hand “Even with the littlest job, they’re still a vet, still serving our country”

Regarding his future, Hunter has his sights set on the Marines “I want to do whatever it takes to defend my country”

Katie Meier

Eighth grader Katie Meier comes from a long line of military veterans in her family, so Veterans Day is an important event in her household

Her level of responsibility greatly increases at home when her father, Army Staff Sgt Thomas Meier, is deployed or leaves on military business

Meier had been stationed in Iraq for a year and a half and arrived back home this time two years ago And the reintegration took some getting used to for Katie, her two sisters and mother who had adjusted their routines

“It was hard getting used to having a guy in the house again,” she recalled “But it made me a stronger person I had to be more responsible at home, watching my sister and altogether I can’t let things bother me Now, if he’s gone for two weeks, I’m used to it”

Katie said her father’s service “means a lot to my family A lot of people in my family have been in the military We understand it I’m proud my father is strong enough to go out there and do what needs to be done when others won’t

“My dad has always been a strong person We’ve always had to deal with Dad away He tells my sisters and me to stay strong and stand up for what we believe in and fight for it,” she added

When asked what Veterans Day means to her, she answered, “It’s a proud day for my family and me Veterans Day makes me feel lucky I am lucky to have family members alive and home because many have lost their lives in service”

In addition to two of her uncles in the service, she noted her great-grandfather fought in World War II, while her grandfather was awarded the Purple Heart after fighting in Vietnam

When asked about her future, Katie noted she does have interest in serving her country “If I were to serve in any branch of the military, it would probably be the Air Force,” she said “I’m good at math and using my head”

Today, her father works for the Pine County Sheriff’s Office, which is close by and fine with Katie and family

“As a family we cherish all the time we have together now,” she said

By Jon Tatting
Thursday, 11 November 2010

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