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Saying 'thank you:' Local schools pay tribute to veterans

American Legion Post Commander Claude Sand helps lead students at Horace May Elementary in the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem on Monday. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 4
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As part of the Vertan's Day Celebration at Solway Elementary School, the Headwater's Quilt Guild presented quilts to two veterans who attended breakfast as quests of Solway students. Pictured are Bonnie Lundorff of the Headwater's Quilt Guild, veteran's Jeff Longie and Steve Wavrin and Jackie Lund of the Headwater's Quilt Guild. Submitted photo3 / 4
Students at Gene Dillon Elementary school perform during a program to honor veterans on Monday, Nov. 12. Submitted photo 4 / 4

BEMIDJI—Several Bemidji Area Schools observed Veterans Day on Monday.

At Horace May Elementary, an American Legion honor guard and dozens and dozens of students packed into the gym there to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the national anthem and other star-spangled songs with help from faculty band The Recliners, and listen to Physical Education Teacher Steve Rohder briefly speak about the importance of the day.

"Veterans Day is a national holiday where we take time to thank United States veterans for their service," Rohder told the assembly of first- through third-graders. "So if you know a veteran...say, 'thank you."

Students also watched as Lt. Col. Kelly Johnson was presented with a specially made quilt for his service.

Johnson was in the Minnesota National Guard and Army Reserves for decades, he said. His son Nick is a Horace May alumni, and his daughter Naomi is a third-grader. School staff said Johnson is a familiar face around the building—a sergeant in the Minnesota State Patrol nowadays, he regularly eats lunch in his uniform at the school, staff said, and is a substitute bus driver for the school district.

Johnson said he was honored that the school did something to recognize veterans in front of students and staff there.

"That's a huge honor to be part of that," he told the Pioneer.

The handmade quilt is a product of the Headwaters Quilt Guild, which produces several each year for Bemidji-area veterans such as Johnson under the national Quilts of Valor Foundation. Members Bonnie Lundorff and Jackie Lund said a quilt like the one they handed to the lieutenant colonel on Monday takes five people about six hours to make.

But Horace May wasn't the only school to observe Veterans Day on Monday.

At Paul Bunyan Elementary, for instance, students sang the anthem and recited the pledge before filing back to class as "Proud to Be an American" piped in through the building's PA system.

And Gene Dillon Elementary students presented carnations to veterans at a program there. Vets were excused to the hallway first, so students could thank them as they filed back to class.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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