Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

With thoughtful gratitude on Veterans Day November 11, 2022

A bronze statue titled “Poppie” personalizes the Rock County Veterans Memorial in Luverne as do the names of some 1,600 veterans engraved in pavers. I’ve seen a lot of veterans memorials and this is among the most impressive. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2013)

NEARLY EVERY COMMUNITY has one. A veterans memorial. I appreciate that public recognition of military service in communities from rural to urban. Yet, acknowledgment of our veterans must stretch beyond public memorials.

Today, Veterans Day, I pause to personally thank the individuals who have served our country. That’s important to remember—individual service and sacrifice. I expect most of you can rattle off names of those in your circle who engaged in combat or other military work. They left their homes, their everyday lives, to answer the call of duty.

I feel gratitude to individuals who, either by draft or by choice, stood strong for democracy. Words like courage, commitment, strength, fortitude…filter into my thoughts when I think of our veterans.

But I also think of the physical, emotional and mental challenges too many combat veterans face post-war. I can never comprehend the pain, the trauma, the grief experienced by those who fought in war zones. I only know how my own father, an infantryman in the Korean War, battled the demons of war during his lifetime. That glimpse was enough to elicit deep concern within me.

We are making strides in recognizing and treating post traumatic stress disorder, for example. Not until near his 2003 death was my dad aware of his PTSD. He never got the intervention and help he needed upon arriving home from war. I’m thankful for the help available today, although I expect sometimes it’s not easily-accessible and not nearly enough.

Suicide among veterans remains high. After hearing a few of my dad’s stories of war atrocities and killing, I recognize the emotional and mental tolls on health. Returning to everyday life after experiencing the traumas of war brings challenges civilians will never fully understand. We need to be there for our veterans in ways that matter—support, compassion, care, understanding—with gratitude in our hearts.

TELL ME: If you’re a veteran, what would you like to hear today, Veterans Day? How can we as a country better honor and help you? If you know a veteran, what have you done to honor and help veterans?

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Honoring veterans in Luverne November 11, 2013

The Rock County Veterans Memorial in front of the courthouse, Luverne, Minnesota.

The Rock County Veterans Memorial in front of the courthouse, Luverne, Minnesota. That’s a restored Civil War cannon.

FROM THE VETERANS MEMORIAL fronting the Rock County Courthouse to the next door Rock County Veterans Memorial Building—which houses the Herreid Military Museum and more—to the Minnesota Veterans Home and the town’s star role in the Ken Burns’ World War II documentary, The War, Luverne honors and respects veterans unlike any other rural Minnesota community.

That’s my impression, anyway, after a visit this summer to Luverne, tucked into the extreme southwestern corner of my state.

A flag hangs in a hallway outside the military museum.

A flag hangs in a hallway outside the military museum.

You cannot help but feel awed by the patriotism that exists here.

A statue titled "Poppies" personalizes this memorial as do the names of some 1,600 veterans engraved in pavers.

A statue titled “Poppies” personalizes this memorial as do the names of some 1,600 veterans engraved in pavers.

And because sometimes a picture is truly worth a thousand words, allow me to show you a snippet of the ways in which Luverne honors veterans:

The 1900 former Rock County Jail and sheriff's home today is the Rock County Veterans Memorial Building. It houses the Herreid Military Museum, the Brandenburg Gallery and the Luverne Chamber of Commerce.

The 1900 former Rock County Jail and sheriff’s home today is the Rock County Veterans Memorial Building. It houses the Herreid Military Museum, the Brandenburg Gallery and the Luverne Chamber of Commerce.

An overview of the Herreid Military Museum which pays tribute to Rock County residents who served their country in the military. A third-floor exhibit will open in 2014 featuring the story of war from Korea and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.

An overview of the Herreid Military Museum which pays tribute to Rock County residents who served their country in the military. A third-floor exhibit will open in 2014 featuring the story of war from Korea and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.

A model plane in the museum.

A model plane in the museum.

Another view of the military museum.

Another view of the military museum.

The memorable face of a veteran at the outdoor memorial.

The memorable face of a veteran at the outdoor memorial.

Equally memorable words.

Equally memorable words.

Today, Veterans Day, please remember our veterans and the sacrifices they made for our freedom.

FYI: Click here to learn more about the Rock County Veterans Memorial.

For more info on the Herried Military Museum, click here.

By clicking here, you will learn more about the Minnesota Veterans Home in Luverne.

Click here to learn more about Ken Burns’ WWII documentary, The War.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling