"Your celebration of Veterans Day here today touches people more than you know," Col. Todd A. Holmquist told the Perham community when they gathered together in the Perham High School gym on the morning of Thursday, Nov. 11 for Veterans Day.

Perham High School students stand up to say the Pledge of Allegiance. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)
Perham High School students stand up to say the Pledge of Allegiance. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

Veterans were first invited for a breakfast at the Perham High School Commons, then the service in the gym began with a welcome and presentation of the Color Guard from the Perham Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4020. The Pledge of Allegiance, several speeches on military service and patriotism, and music performances followed to honor the holiday and veterans.

"I want to tell you how impressive this display of patriotism is," Holmquist said in his speech as he reflected on his 26 years of service in the Marine Corps. "This time of year for me is very special. It's important, and it's humbling."

A Perham student carries the United States Coast Guard flag across the Perham High School gym. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)
A Perham student carries the United States Coast Guard flag across the Perham High School gym. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

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Young Perham residents were also given the chance to express what patriotism and Veterans Day mean to them. Perham High School junior Clara Tangen read her essay based on the theme, "America: Where do we go from here?" Her essay was written for the 2021-22 Voice of Democracy essay contest, and Tangen was awarded first place by the VFW, moving on to the District level.

"America has survived through wars and massacres, pandemics and economic depressions, injustices, crime and disasters," said Tangen. "There are people who have worked and fought to get America to where it is today. They are the ones who have guaranteed these freedoms and opportunities for us, and it is our job to protect and embrace those freedoms."

Tangen highlighted how important it is that America takes a look at its current flaws in order to make changes for the better. She said that as Americans, we need to listen to each other's ideas, thoughts and needs.

"We are the United States of America, and it is integral that we remain that way," she said.

Veteran Lucas Schmitz speaks to the crowd on Veterans Day. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)
Veteran Lucas Schmitz speaks to the crowd on Veterans Day. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

Col Todd A. Holmquist speaks to the crowd on Veterans Day. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)
Col Todd A. Holmquist speaks to the crowd on Veterans Day. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

Another speaker, Perham resident and veteran Lucas Schmitz, shared the story of his service and how he lost his leg after stepping on an I.E.D. He emphasized how important it is that people honor those who give their mind and body to serve. Over time, the actions will fade, but names will not, he said.

If he had a choice, Schmitz would always serve again despite what he went through.

"Serving is something that can't be explained," said Holmquist. "You have to inherit it by going through and demonstrating those things that your service asks of you. We have men and women across the states who give that for free."

In a physical demonstration of the service given by veterans, Perham High School juniors LaVonne Lindberg, Trisha Crews and Kaitlynn Shaw set up a POW Table, also known as a Missing Man Table. Every piece of the setup represents the service of veterans being honored at the program:

The round table symbolizes everlasting concern. The white cloth represents the purity of a service member's intentions. The red rose stands for blood shed. A slice of lemon signifies the bitter fate of those missing. A pinch of salt symbolizes families' tears. The candle represents a flicker of hope. The glass is inverted, showing the service member's inability to participate in the toast. And the chair is empty; they are not there.

The POW Table display sits empty in the Perham High School gym. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)
The POW Table display sits empty in the Perham High School gym. (Elizabeth Vierkant/Focus)

"I want to say thank you to all the vets — all that I've served with and those who came before me," said Holmquist. "You have my deepest pride and sincere gratification… There's no thanks. I need no thanks. I don't need to be revered. I know what I did, and I'm proud to have served our country."

Holmquist ended his speech by encouraging all those listening to thank any veteran they see for their service because there is no greater honor.

As the program came to a close, the American flag was folded and set on display, then the colors were retired. Perham residents carried on with their day, remembering the service of the veterans around them.