Jeff Lueck wishes for a day when there isn’t a need to serve in the military.
“But until that day comes,” said Luek, a colonel in the U.S. Army who served in Iraq, “we will need people who will always stand and say ‘I’ll work, I’ll help, I’ll serve for this country.’”
That is who we celebrate on Veterans Day, Lueck said at a special ceremony Monday morning at Winona Senior High School. Lueck and Jim Crigler, a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, addressed the senior class about what Veterans Day means, who it honors, and why we celebrate it.
It was the first of two ceremonies the seniors attended Monday; the second was the Winona Area Veterans Council program at Lake Park, where they were joined by the senior class at Cotter and Hope Lutheran high schools as well as dozens of veterans and their families.
Crigler, who years ago paddled the entire distance of the Mississippi River to raise money for Gold Star families, said the students’ presence at the ceremony is a special gift.
“Every year, it’s the same 60 or 70 people, veterans and their families, out of a population of 28,000,” he said of the Veterans Day program. “It was saddening.
“But four years ago, Winona Senior High School changed all of that. Two-hundred and thirty students marched that mile to the park, and they showed solidarity on that special day. You are letting the community know that you care. That, believe me, will make a difference.”
Students received a gift bag with hand warmers, a snack, a challenge coin and a pocket Constitution to remind them of what the veterans sought to defend.
The ceremony also honored seniors who either have enlisted or plan to enlist in a branch of the military: Jeremy Rivers (Army), Matt Satka (Army), Chloe Lemieux (Air Force), Justice Johnson (Marines), Devin Haines (Marines), Deacon Pressey (Marines), Ethan Cummings (Marines), Caity Going (Marines) and Bella Iverson-Jones (Air Force).
Although in years past the students would march down Lake Street to the park, because of temperatures in the low teens with the wind chill, the Veterans Day Committee arranged for buses to take the students to Lake Lodge, where they walked along with veterans who work or have worked at the high school, the enlisted seniors and others to the park for the ceremony.
Other classes at the high school observed Veterans Day during their Guided Study Hall periods.
Lueck asked all of the students in attendance to think of ways they can give back in order to honor the sacrifice of veterans and the family members they left behind.
“We as citizens of the United States of America, we should serve in some way,” Lueck said. “Whether we volunteer at an assisted living facility, or we become a teacher, or a first responder, you have to give back to this country. It makes our veterans all feel good that the work they did is all worth it.”