Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

The City of Kimball honors its veterans

Fog sat in the cold crisp air as local residents and military veterans stood in the Kimball cemetery as the local VFW and Kimball Police Department honored veterans both present and past by raising 21 flags and giving a seven gun salute the morning of November 11.

Though the air was biting and the sun was nowhere to be seen in the sky, veterans stood steady and proud as each shot rang in the distance, sending each flag up with honor and due diligence.

Later in the morning, Jeri Ferguson's Civics class held their annual Veterans Day program at the Kimball High School in the auditorium.

The auditorium was packed from wall to wall as students and residents alike piled in to show their gratitude and offer their respect to the men and women of Kimball that have served in past wars and continue to serve the country, filling the city and its residents with pride over the character, strength and selflessness of its military veterans.

Mayor James Schnell took to the stage at the start of the program to offer up a few words on the freedoms that men and women in the service have fought to protect, particularly focusing on the freedom of religion.

"When someone prior to a battle would cry out, 'God protect us as we go into battle.' Each military person knew in their heart their god and were willing to fight to the death beside the person that was praying to his God beside them," Schnell said.

Schnell expressed that the nation would be better off if the citizens would follow the example of our veterans who fought bravely alongside people of all different walks of life and different beliefs and let every American enjoy the religious freedom that our men and women have fought for, bled for, and died to protect.

"It disturbs me how we back here in America are always fighting over religious freedom, prayer in schools or other public leanings when for centuries our military has proven that you stand together to allow those freedoms to everyone in America," Schnell said.

Schnell also acknowledged the bond that veterans share that stems from their time fighting alongside each other and supporting each other through the perils that they face while serving the nation.

"Veterans are a family. The military veterans are bound by a trust until death that is more solid than the marble of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We are forever grateful to these people that have made this the greatest nation on earth. We as civilians must promise not to let others chip away at the constitution that so many men and women have laid their lives down to protect and defend," Schnell said.

Schnell also presented Kimball Public Schools Superintendent Marshall Lewis and Kimball Elementary Principal Mike Mitchell with a flag in a special presentation that had been in the works since May of last year.

"Last May, Henry Heeg and his nephew devised a plan to honor Kimball Public Schools. Henry purchased a U.S. flag and shipped it to Afghanistan. Captain Mark Schnell received permission to place the U.S. Flag in his survival bag that accompanied him while in his jet during missions flying his A10 Warhawk," Schnell said.

According to Schnell, the flag had been flown on August 3 in honor of Kimball Public Schools.

After Schnell left the podium, elementary students from Mary Lynch Elementary took to the stage to sing songs for the veterans who were present for the program including 'America the Beautiful', 'Battle Hymn of the Republic', and 'A Time to Remember'.

However, it was not only the elementary students that sang to the veterans in the audience. Local resident Aida Williams took to the stage to sing a beautiful rendition of 'America the Beautiful' with her voice perfectly resonating throughout the auditorium.

The key note speaker of the program was Philip Erdman, State Agriculture Director for U.S. Senator Mike Johanns, who spoke a few words about the meaning of Veterans Day.

"Today we enjoy the blessings of freedom earned by the valor and sacrifice of millions of veterans. In countless places stricken by war and famine, you brought help and hope and the chance for peace. Your service strengthens and inspires our great nation," Erdman said.

Erdman also took time to point out that Veterans Day is not only a day to show our gratitude to veterans who have laid down their lives but rather to acknowledge the continuing sacrifices of those who are still serving and still fighting to ensure the safety of their country.

"Veterans Day is the day we set aside to serve all who have served honorably in the military in war time and in peace time. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank our living veterans for their sacrifice, to acknowledge their contributions to our national security, and to underscore the fact that all of those who served, not only those who died, have sacrificed and done their duty," Erdman said.

Erdman also took a moment to honor family members of those currently serving in the military who often get overlooked by asking them to stand up so that they could be recognized.

"For the rest of us in this room, look around. You know the families. You know the people that are standing. You know that when their family member is deployed or someone they love is in harm's way, they're carrying that burden, but they may also have a need that you may be able to help meet. Look around and in the coming days think of ways you may be able to honor them and their service of their family member by helping out," Erdman said.

After the program had ended and residents and veterans had left the room, some even leaving with tears in their eyes being moved by the show of appreciation offered by the students, faculty, and members of the town, they were treated to one last offering of gratitude at Mary Lynch where kids from kindergarten through third grade stood around the flag pole holding balloons and wearing paper hats with drawings of the stars and stripes singing 'Yankee Doodle' and 'God Bless America'.

However, though our local veterans were shown a tremendous amount of appreciation by residents throughout the town, words of gratitude where also expressed from the national level with United States Senator Mike Johanns, a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, commending Nebraska veterans for their service on behalf of himself and his wife Stephanie.

"Whether stationed at Offutt Air Force Base today or at remote outposts generations ago, Nebraskans have played a critical role in answering the call of duty. Their struggles and sacrifices gave birth to the freedoms we enjoy as Americans," Johanns said. "A simple thank you may seem like a small gesture, but it lets our veterans know we remember their service and the sacrifices they and their families made for us. On behalf of every Nebraskan, Steph and I want to extend our deepest gratitude to our veterans, to those currently serving and also to their families here at home."

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