Cadets highlight Veterans Day program


November 12, 2019


Ironwood — The 100th anniversary Veterans Day program at Luther L. Wright High School on Monday was highlighted by cadets of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Program performing several flag exercises from presenting colors, to marching exercises and a folding ceremony.

Col. Sandra Keefer (U.S. Army retired), the senior Army instructor for the JROTC program, said the new assistant instructor Sgt. 1st Class Sean Hall started on Monday. The two are training 46 cadets in the program this year, she said.

“We spend time getting ready to do this and I think the community loves it,” Keefer said. “Last year we got the flag folding started and I got such great response from it that we decided to do it again this year.”

Lt. Col. Cole Brunell, JROTC cadet and commander of the IHS Red Devil Battalion, said the cadets worked hard to set up the stage and to learn the program. Everything fell into place and the cadets enjoyed the practice, he said.

It takes a lot of hand’s on work to learn and to perfect all of the flag and honor guard routines, he said.

Brunell welcomed classmates, community and veterans by noting the first Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, was to acknowledge the veterans and the fallen World War I that ended a year earlier. The day was made a national holiday in 1936 and its name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

Brunell introduced they keynote speaker, retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Manki, an Ironwood native who graduated high school here in 1970 and then from Northern Michigan State University in 1977. As an officer in the U.S. Army, Manki’s oversees service included the Republic of South Korea, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Germany. His wartime service included Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-91.

Manki said Armistice Day 1919 was meant to honor the veterans of what was hoped to be the war to end all wars. World War I resulted in 40 million military and civilian dead, left much of Europe in ruins, destroyed the world economy, he said.

But the wars have continued and currently the United States has been at war for the past 18 years and remains at war with terrorists all over the world, he said.

Friends, relatives and neighbors who have served in the military helped to write the history of those times and today’s men and women in uniform are writing that history in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. The youth today will continue to small parts of a larger organization that continues the fight against something the U.S. didn’t start and the next generation must finish, he said.

“Today, we honor the men and women who have fought to protect our freedom,” he said.

Manki called on a teacher to have a student yell out her response when she was asked what freedom meant to her. “We get to choose,” was the reply.

“In fact, today they are serving all around the world protecting your right to choose,” Manki said.

Some veterans come back changed forever or some do not come back, he said. But this is a war that must be won to remain a free people, he said.

Young people will go on to careers and they will raise families and teach their own children about freedom, Manki said. This generation will continue the tradition of Veterans Day so the next generation will understand what it means to appreciate the men and women who put on a uniform, he said.

“God bless the United States of America,” Manki said.

SSG Eugene Wheeler III, the U.S. Marines recruiter in the Rhinelander area, said there is definitely a lot of tradition and roots with anything the military does. It’s good to see the public interested in seeing how ceremonies are done and the cadet students get to show the reason why they chose to do join JROTC, he said.

“It peels back the curtains of Oz, if you would, and it really shows everyone the dedication and the spirit that ultimately is what the military fights for fights for, I think,” Wheeler said.

To see the area veterans and the community come to event adds another layer of showing how people come together and honor veterans for the sacrifices they made, he said.

“When they return they can take care of each other and share both the good and the bad of what they learned during that time,” Wheeler said.

Tom DeCarlo, a World War II veteran of the U.S. Navy, said he’s been representing the American Legion or the United Veterans at Veterans Day ceremonies for 70 years. He joined the Navy on July 19, 1944 and served aboard the newly commissioned aircraft carrier USS Thetis Bay.

DeCarlo served in the South Pacific and his ship was among the allied armada in Tokyo Bay when General Douglas MacArthur accepted the surrender of Imperial Japanese forces on Sept. 2, 1945.

“I saw MacArthur there on Sept. 2,” DeCarlo said, adding that he also quit smoking on the return voyage.


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