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WDC salutes veterans

Retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Tendall spoke to a gymnasium filled with students, veterans and the community. Anna Erickson/Pioneer Journal1 / 3
WDC elementary students hold up signs during a musical performance Thursday. Anna Erickson/Pioneer Journal2 / 3
World War II veteran LeRoy Kresien was recognized for his service during the program. Anna Erickson/Pioneer Journal3 / 3

Veterans from all wars were recognized for their service and sacrifice at last week's Veterans Day program at Wadena-Deer Creek Middle/High School.

Retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Tendall asked veterans in the audience to stand and be honored before he began his keynote speech. Veterans who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan and the War on Terrorism were in attendance.

"Since the beginning of time, our great soldiers have placed their lives on the line to protect us," Tendall said.

He described veterans at selfless because they place others' lives ahead of their own. This is a quality all veterans share though they come from different walks of life, he added.

"They possess courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity; all qualities needed to serve a cause larger than one's self," Tendall said.

Born into a military family, Tendall's father, Thomas, was a Tuskagee Airman who served during World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Tendall followed in his father's footsteps and enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school.

Tendall's enlisted service covered Airborne, Ranger and Special Forces training. He served two and a half tours in Vietnam as a Long-Range Reconnaissance Specialist. After returning to the states, Tendall volunteered for Drill Sergeant duty, and upon completion, was assigned to Berlin, Germany as a Counterintelligence Agent.

Tendall was then selected to attend U.S. Army Warrant Officer Flight School and was assigned to fly medical evacuation helicopters. His additional flying assignments included general support and special forces special operations support as an instructor pilot.

Tendall retired from active duty and reserve in 1995. He and his family moved to Minnesota where he was hired into the U.S. Government Federal Service as an agent in Minneapolis area. Kevin retired from Federal Service and now resides in Wadena. In his retirement, Tendall has driven school bus for Wadena-Deer Creek School District since 2014.

After his address, a PowerPoint featured photos of local and area veterans to the song "God Bless the USA."

WDC Vocal Instructor Mike Ortmann coordinates the school's Veterans Day program and helped with the musical selections performed by students. WDC students participated in several aspects of the program.

WDC Student Council Co-President Maggie Schmitz led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Fifth- and sixth-grade essay contest winners read their essays about "What Veterans Day Means to Me."

Legion Boys State participants Andrew McCullough and Konnor Stueve read "Freedom is Not Free," a poem by Kelly Strong, at the Veterans Day program.

Freedom is not Free

I watched the flag pass by one day.

It fluttered in the breeze

A young Marine saluted it, and then

He stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform

So young, so tall, so proud

With hair cut square and eyes alert

He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought, how many men like him

Had fallen through the years?

How many died on foreign soil?

How many mothers' tears?

How many Pilots' planes shot down?

How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?

No, Freedom is not free.

I heard the sound of taps one night,

When everything was still.

I listened to the bugler play

And felt a sudden chill.

I wondered just how many times

That taps had meant "Amen"

When a flag had draped a coffin

of a brother or a friend.

I thought of all the children,

Of the mothers and the wives,

Of fathers, sons and husbands

With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard

at the bottom of the sea

Of unmarked graves in Arlington.

No, Freedom isn't free!!

- Copyright 1981 by Kelly Strong

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561