Weekend events honor veterans

Esther Noe
“Today it is our privilege to say thank you to all of our American veterans to let them know that we appreciate them for their service and honor and for their sacrifices. The price of freedom is high. We cannot afford to forget those willing to pay it. Today we celebrate America’s veterans for keeping this nation the land of the free and the home of the brave,” said Lillie Ross during the annual Hill City High School Veterans Day program Nov. 10. 
This year’s guest speaker was Pennington County Sheriff’s Office deputy Thad Schmidt. Schmidt is a major in the South Dakota National Guard and Hill City’s former school resource officer. During his 21 years of service, he has worked as Military Police and has been deployed four times. He joined up shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 when he was a sophomore in college. 
“Veterans Day serves as a tribute to those people who raised their right hand and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States and to defend everyone in this room,” Schmidt said. We celebrate it because veterans are extremely important.” 
During his presentation, Schmidt focused on the question, “What does it truly mean to be a veteran?” 
He spoke to some of the highs saying, “It means working hard to protect American interests, values and the American way of life for future generations. It means giving back to and investing in the greatest country ever. It means being able to instantly relate to other veterans regardless of race, color or background. It means getting to see the world, some of it amazing, some of it not so much. It means seeing and experiencing distant cultures, religions and languages you have only ever heard about.” 
Schmidt also spoke about how serving in the military teaches you valuable life skills. He said it makes you a better person, a leader and a giver. However, along with giving comes sacrifice. 
“It means watching your children grow up and go through struggles while you’re thousands of miles away. It means being absent for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other major life events such as the birth of a child. It means coming home changed from experiences we can’t or won’t talk about because others won’t understand or we ourselves can’t speak of,” said Schmidt. 
Yet looking back on the highs and lows, Schmidt said he would do it all again for the young people attending the program. 
“I want to be able to watch you all grow up with the freedoms our founding fathers intended you to have—the freedom to life, liberty and happiness, the opportunity to succeed and do great things,” Schmidt said. “So my challenge to you now is to live a life worthy of the sacrifice made by so many on your behalf. The world is wide open to you, so take advantage of the opportunities provided for you by the veterans sitting in this room.” 
Throughout the program, the Hill City High School Band and Concert Choir along with the middle school choir performed several songs to honor the veterans in attendance. These included the “Star Spangled Banner,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “March of the Armed Forces,” “Song for the Unsung Hero,” “National Emblem March,” “Thank You, Soldiers” and “America the Beautiful.” 
An empty chair was also positioned in front of the room in honor of those listed as Prisoners of War or soldiers missing in action. 
Per statistics provided by the Department of Defense, Riley Dierolf said the number of soldiers listed as missing in action is 83,329 with 139,576 service members listed as prisoners of war from World War I to the present day. To commemorate these soldiers, Zoe Alexander lit a remembrance candle as Dierolf read Del ‘Abe’ Jones’ POW/MIA poem. 
During the program, the Heart of the Hills Quilters also honored six local veterans with patriotic quilts. In the past nine years, they have donated a total of 49 quilts to veterans and active duty personnel. 
Long-time resident and Hill City High School graduate Dean Meyer was nominated for a quilt by Wendy Hedge. Meyer joined the Navy in 1988. 
“After boot camp, he went to the United States Naval Submarine School in Groten, Connecticut. From there, he was stationed at Banger Submarine base in Bangar, Washington until his discharge in 1992,” said Lori Comer. 
Next, was Charles (Chuck) Summers who was nominated by Heather McNitt. Summers enlisted in the South Dakota National Guard in Mitchell when he was 19. When asked about his time serving, Summers reflected on several short missions including The Cuban Missile Crisis and the events of the Rapid City Flood. 
“Chuck’s service of 22 years includes 10 years with the South Dakota National Guard and 12 years Army Reserves. He was a commanding officer of the 665th Heavy Equipment Maintenance Division and 147th Field Artillery with the rank of army captain,” said Comer. 
Donna Talley was nominated by Sherrie Mumm. Talley entered the United States Army in 1973 and became one of the last members of the Women’s Army Corps. 
“After basic training and medic school, she was stationed in Germany with the Fifth General Hospital,” said Comer. “Some of her hospital duties included working with drug overdoses and other forms of substance abuse. She was also the treatment room supervisor while assigned to Troop Medical Clinic 6 at Ft. Hood.” 
Today, Talley is the longest serving domestic violence director in South Dakota. She has been the director of Women Escaping A Violent Environment in Custer since 1990. 
Dale Geiman was nominated by Dave and Mary Larson. Geiman began his military career right out of high school and proudly served from 1962-65. 
“Dale’s basic training was at Ft. Leonardwood, Missouri. He served in the fifth artillery, first battalion. After basic training, he was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska, as well as serving a tour in Vietnam,” said Comer. 
Among his many achievements, Gieman received the rifle sharpshooter award, the Vietnam rifle award and was selected to attend the Midwest Honor Flight in June 2023. 
Don Askew was nominated by Fred Tully. Askew served four years of active duty and three years as a reservist. 
“In January 1968, he operated against North Korea after North Korea captured the USS Pueblo taking 86 U.S. soldiers as POWs. Don received the Commendation Ribbon for Meritorious Service during combat operations against insurgent forces of North Vietnam as well as Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for operations off of North Korea, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal,” said Comer. 
Finally, George King was nominated by Mumm. In her nomination, Mumm commented that King did not think of himself as a hero as he humbly says, “I didn’t serve on the front line nor give the ultimate sacrifice. I served when my country called me to do so.” 
King enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 19. Comer said, “King served during the Vietnam era. During a mission on a Navy ship in the Pacific where Marines had caught a ride, word of the ‘last battle’ of the Vietnam War broke out with Cambodia. By the time they returned to base, the battle on a tiny island was over.”
King served at Camp Pendelton for the duration of his enlistment and earned top security clearance finishing his career as a secret and confidential clerk in the COMSEC division. 
As each veteran’s story was told, members of the Heart of the Hills Quilters placed a quilt around his or her shoulders. Some veterans stood proudly, some smiled brightly and some wiped away tears. 
Afterward, the program concluded with students from the elementary school handing out the thank you notes they made for the veterans. 
Later that day, veterans and family members enjoyed a delicious meal and time of fellowship at the Veterans Luncheon hosted by the Hill City Senior Citizens. This was the eighth year the seniors have held this luncheon, and president Dale Householder said they really enjoy it.
“We still love them, we still honor them and still thank the active as well as the retired military for their service. This country wouldn’t be what it is today without them,” said Householder. “These are the men and women of the United States of America who have given their time, their sacrifice and their family to serve this country, to protect this country. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.” 
The next day the Keystone Senior Center and Social Club put on another Veterans Day Lunch to honor the veterans in the local community. Vice president Lynda Skogen said the senior center existed to do what was right for the community, and the veterans and their families are a part of that.
“It’s just giving a little bit compared to what they did for us,” said Skogen, and to the veterans in the community she said, “You are all our heroes.” 
After the meal, a presentation was given by guest speaker Lt. Col. Tim Goodwin, retired United States Army and former District 30 Representative. Goodwin shared about his time as a representative and some of the bills he worked on to benefit and honor veterans. 
He also shared about the patriotism seen in South Dakota. According to Goodwin, about six percent of the population nationwide is veterans. South Dakota, however, has the highest per capita with nine to 10 percent of the state’s population having served in the military. 
“Tomorrow we must continue to honor all our veterans. They have given us a chance to live our freedom today and the opportunity to look forward to tomorrow. They have given to us every day, and they have protected every freedom. We must honor them every day in every way we can,” said Goodwin. “We must teach future generations about what it means to be an American. We must volunteer in our communities, take care of veterans and their families, vote in elections and continue to try to make America the very best it can be.” 
So what is a veteran? Goodwin put it this way: “A veteran, whether on active duty, discharged or retired, is someone who at one point wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for the amount of and including to his life. This is truly an honor, and we hope and pray that all American people understand that.”

User login