A school tribute to area veterans

by Tom Coombe
Messages were sent and received during the annual Veterans’ Day program at the Ely schools.
As students gave thanks and saluted the dozens of veterans who took part in Monday morning’s event, two speakers challenged students to consider an assortment of ways to give back to their country - including military service.
Navy veteran Jessica Kellogg gave the keynote address, while Ely’s nearly 600 students and an audience of at least another 150 people heard also from Anne Koskinen, an Ely veteran and current commander of the American Legion in Minnesota’s Eighth District.
“Joining the military is a good career path for any citizen,” said Koskinen.
Kellogg offered similar advice, noting that “just about anything you can do as a civilian, you can do in the military,” pointing to careers as diverse as medicine and education.
A current Ely area resident, Kellogg spoke glowingly of her time in the Navy and took questions from elementary school and high school students during a brief address.
She pointedly asked students to think about their own career goals and looked back to her time on a Navy ship, leading the students and the audience through the regimented way she and her peers ate their meals.
“You learn how to pay attention to the smallest details,” said Kellogg, after leading the group through roughly 12 steps.
Koskinen noted the 100th anniversary of the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary and highlighted many of the organization’s numerous opportunities, including scholarship initiatives and the Boys’ State/Nation and Girls’ State/Nation programs. She also encouraged the youth to consider joining components of the Legion family, including auxiliary or Sons of the Legion chapters.
Earlier, Koskinen spoke of the Pledge of Allegiance, which was recited at the start of the hour long event. Citing the phrase “the republic for which it stands,” Koskinen said “we live in a republic where we elect leaders to represent us.”
High school principal Megan Anderson opened the program, calling the event “a great day to reflect and simply say thank you to an amazing group of men and women.”
Anderson called the program “a small way to extend our thanks,” and looked back to events of the last 12 months, including the 75th anniversary of D-Day during World War II.
A World War II veteran, Calvin Herala, was in attendance and recognized by Anderson and the rest of the audience. Herala joined the military in 1942.
Veterans of the Korean, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraqi conflicts were also represented and recognized. The program also included the traditional medley by the high school band, which played the theme songs from each branch of the military. Veterans stood and were applauded when the song of their respective branch was played.
Ely’s high school choir also performed during the program, and it also included two songs sung by students of Washington Elementary, who filled the east balcony of the Memorial Gymnasium.
Colors were presented and retired by the Ely Area Honor Guard, and school officials also hosted a reception for veterans and their guests after the event, which has been part of the school calendar for the last decade or so.