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2017 story: Solemnity and sacrifice: Park High School thanks veterans

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Park High School senior and ROTC cadet Alisia Johnson sang "God Bless the USA" during a Nov. 10 Veterans Day observance in the school gym. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Wolfpack Air Force Junior ROTC MN-871 presented the 11th annual Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 10 at Park High School. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Vietnam veteran Jed Swenson of Woodbury stands while his name and rank are read during the Nov. 10 Veterans Day observance at Park High School. William Loeffler / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

The lights dimmed, drums sounded and a bagpipe keened at the start of the Nov. 10 Veterans Day ceremony in the Park High School gym.

Wolfpack Air Force Junior ROTC MN-871 presented the 11th annual program. Park senior and cadet Alisia Johnson, 17, sang "God Bless the USA," while accompanying herself on guitar.

Vietnam veterans in attendance included Bud Schmidt and Ervin Schlorf of Cottage Grove and Jed Swenson of Woodbury. Korean War veteran Mel Hottman also attended.

It was the first Veterans Day event at Park for Junior ROTC commander Darrell Lockhart, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel. He moved to Cottage Grove from Florida to take the position.

"I got nothing but praise for the cadets and the way they conducted themselves," he said.

This year, they invited local veterans to stand and as their name and rank were read.

"It's about recognizing those among us," Lockhart said.

Sgt. 1st Class James Brewer with the Minnesota Army National Guard duly stood when his name was called. But he deferred commenting to his older comrades.

"Go talk to the older guys," he said afterward. "They're the real veterans."

Attendees also included Deborah McBride of Woodbury, a retired Air Force colonel and nurse, and Steve Campos of Cottage Grove, a retired chief master sergeant with the Minnesota Air National Guard. The Air Force Junior ROTC also held a 12-hour vigil at the Park flagpole for the seventh year in a row. On Friday afternoon, cadets released balloons with poppies attached with the names of veterans who have died as a finale to the vigil.

Editor's note: This story is from November 2017. 

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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