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Stories of courage and camaraderie bring Veterans Day to life

The gun salute helped conclude the Veterans Day program held at the American Legion Post 80 in New Richmond Friday, Nov. 11. (Photo by Raymond T. Rivard)1 / 3
Wayne Fredrickson cares for the American flag following Veterans Day ceremonies held at the American Legion Butler-Harmon Post 80. (Photos by Raymond T. Rivard)2 / 3
American Legion Butler-Harmon Post 80 Commander Dennis Hurtis leads the program to a packed room at the Veterans Day program held at the facility Friday, Nov. 11.3 / 3

In honor of Veterans Day, Friday Memorial Library hosted its second annual Veterans Round Table last Friday afternoon at the library.

Reference & Adult Services Librarian, Sally Cheslock, assembled a panel of local veterans including VFW Post 10818 members and Vietnam veterans Dave Green and Ken House, American Legion Butler-Harmon Post 80 Vietnam veteran Dennis Hurtis, Korean War veteran Rosemary Springer and VFW Auxiliary member Wanda Viellieux.

This year’s discussion was once again moderated by New Richmond News reporter Tom Lindfors.

In front of an audience filled with other veterans and community members of all ages, panel members spent more than an hour graciously sharing from their personal experiences about the sometimes humorous, sometimes painful life as a soldier.

House candidly admitted he wrestled with resisting in Canada, ultimately realizing he couldn’t live with the consequence of someone else dying in his stead.

Green recounted stepping out of a chopper and setting foot for the first time in Vietnam and being hit with the realization life wasn’t a game any more.

Springer recounted with pride her service as a photographer working in Pensacola assembling maps out of black and white aerial photographs.

Hurtis described how, as a Vietnam era sailor frequenting the largest U.S. military hospital in Japan, he had to learn how to set aside his emotions in the face of so many seriously wounded, an exercise that would take him many years to undo.

To a man, each veteran described a kind of fear that kept them alive, the courage it took to keep fighting and the providence it took to bring them home.

For everyone present in the audience, it was difficult not to be moved by their stories and warmed by their obvious camaraderie.

A debt of gratitude goes out to the library and in particular Sally Cheslock for taking time to put this panel together and in the process recognizing the importance of keeping alive the lessons of veterans.

As our country ages, our collective memory, our personal connection to the world’s great conflicts is beginning to fade. It makes discussions like last Friday’s all the more important. History learned from a book or commemorated in a statute lacks the intimacy and heart bound up in personal stories shared first hand about courage and honor and the loss of brothers in the chaos of conflict.

Experiences like these need to be shared with our children for the sake of their children, or our opportunity to learn from their lessons will be lost.

Listening and learning is the least we can do to respect what each of these men have given us.

Do not miss your opportunity to hear their stories next Veterans Day at the library.