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Minnesota National Guard
Ceremony Sunday to celebrate Veterans Day

Military service runs in Jarvas Polk's family.

The first lieutenant in the Minnesota National Guard enlisted in 2005, in part because of the number of his family members who have been in the armed services over the years including grandparents, aunts and uncles.

"Serving affects people you might not even realize," said Polk, the featured speaker Sunday at the the Winona Veterans Day Ceremony. "They made me want to contribute more than I was to the world. I wanted to be part of a bigger picture."

Polk returned in May from his first deployment to Afghanistan, where he helped train Afghan police and soldiers. "It was a really gratifying experience," he said. "It made you feel like you were really contributing."

Sunday's ceremony includes a 24-hour vigil starting at midnight, the 11 a.m. ceremony, displays and a showing of the movie "Memorial Day" at the Winona Area Veterans Center.

Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, named after the 1918 cease-fire that signaled the end of World War I. The armistice was signed at 11 a.m. Nov. 11, which is where the phrase "the eleventh hour" came from.

A year later, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day. The holiday's name and date would change over the years until 1975, when President Gerald Ford signed into law the current rules on the holiday's observation.

For many, this year's Veterans Day ceremony is a special one. This will be the first Veterans Day since the winding down of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Polk said, including the return of the Red Bulls Minnesota Guard unit from Kuwait.

"It's really a time for us to thank fellow members of the military for their service and remember those no longer with us," he said. "We also need to take a second to realize we have people still deployed."

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