From: Roger Reitmaier
The 21st annual Veterans Vigil is history. On Veterans Day one hundred and five brave, chilled souls (veterans, family and friends of veterans) stood one-hour watches for the entire 24 hours of Veterans Day in memory of their brothers- and sisters-in-arms both living and deceased. This year’s special focus was to honor the service of our Korean War veterans. The irony of the day was that the unusually cold weather (for this time of year) seemed to stand itself in windy/cold honor of those veterans. For the Korean War’s reputation, if you will, was that it was a cold, desolate place to have to fight a war. The proclamation read every hour on the hour as the watch was changed stated in part: “This year’s focus is to especially honor those who served in the ‘forgotten war‘, the Korean War. It was referred to as a ‘police action’, not a war. Tell that to those brave men-in-arms at the Chosin Reservoir during that awful December 1950 with tens of thousands of Chinese troops bearing down on them.”
We honor the dedication and patriotism of our watch standers. Many ordinary Winona area citizens came to the center flag area of Veterans Memorial Park to express thanks to those standing a cold watch. Of note was a young mother with her 8-year-old son shaking hands of each of the four watch standers standing the noon hour and saying “thanks.” The mother alluded to the fact that she’s been bringing her son to the Vigil since he was toddler. She wants to instill in him the understanding and appreciation of the nature and degree of sacrifice made by our individual service men and women to protect and defend the freedoms we hold dear.
Many folks and entities need to be thanked. First and foremost are the Winona veterans clubs, the VFW, American Legion, Purple Heart, and Hiawatha Valley Marines, who have steadfastly supported the Vigil since day one. We give thanks to the 105 watch standers, the watch captains, those who anonymously brought food to warm the bellies of the standers.
A special thanks to the Red Cross for providing donuts and cookies, for pizza donations for the early evening shifts, to Diane Cada and Nancy Berger and the rest of the Legion Auxiliary for their contributions, to the Hiawatha Valley Marines for donating the food left over from the USMC birthday dinner, to Bruce and Linda Reed for setting up and maintaining the coffee and chili to warm the stomachs of our watch standers, to Denise Baumann, who brought fruit to balance out all the sweets and to all the countless others who in any way helped flesh out the Vigil. We would be remiss if we did not mention the wonderful coverage provided by Chris Rogers of the Winona Post for going above and beyond in reporting this local story. And a final thanks to all the citizens of Winona and surrounding communities who came out to pay their respects.
One final thought: unsung heroes of the Vigil are those who brave the cold in the wee hours of the morning. Ann Hagerman stood the final hour from 11 to midnight with a wind chill of 10 degrees with a blanket wrapped around her for a little more protection. An ordinary citizen non-veteran, Annie just wanted to show honor to our veterans. Paul Lueck, Kim Erickson and Greg Erickson are out there every year at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. A special thanks is extended to those patriotic souls.