Recognition of sacrifices more than a day on calendar in Elk River

Carole Boelter stepped up at Lincoln Elementary School this past week and gave the keynote address for the school’s annual Veterans Day program.

The Minnesota Vikings and their fans performed a card stunt on Veterans Day to say thank you to all veterans and military personnel. The Elk River American Legion was also on hand with a thank-you card headed for the Guinness Book of World Records. Make sure you sign it.

She did a nice job of connecting the dots for students that teachers are indeed real people who go home to real families at night and experience real joys and struggles. They have strong reasons behind their support of holidays like Veterans Day that go far beyond anything a student might read in a text book.

I never knew that Boelter lost her father in a construction accident when she was 21 years old, but I can only imagine after hearing her story how profound the impact has been from the Veterans Day programs that have become steeped in tradition over the years in Elk River schools.

Boelter’s father once was the commander of the Elk River American Legion and was a longtime member of the group’s color guard. Seeing the color guard march across School Street on its approach to Lincoln’s neighbor Parker Elementary School must have sent chills up and down her spine for reasons more than the briskness of some of these fall days that have enveloped these events.

Boelter has 23 children in her kindergarten class this year, and they alone assembled a pretty hefty photo album of her and her  students’ connections to active members of the military and retired or deceased veterans. Her students will now see her an entirely new light knowing how she experienced life growing up in the home of  war veteran.

Earl Moos didn’t talk about his time in the war, but his daughter developed an interest in her father’s tour of duty that can be partially quenched. She now clings to letters he wrote long ago to his family.

Mind you, these were all written before he even had a thought of marrying the woman he did and they settled down to have a family.  But these letters give a look-see into his life — at about same age Carole had to deal with her father’s death. “I learned a lot about him,” Boelter said.

Knowing people and their challenges and triumphs can make a world of difference in our interactions with people.

It might not change everything, but it changes a lot.

I was reminded in my conversation with Mrs. Boelter that times have changed.

Veterans have not always been welcomed home. Being a World War II veteran, Earl probably received a pretty nice welcome home. But when he served his country again through his involvement in the Elk River American Legion, the environment for veterans was not the same as it is today.

Children — and adults — probably have no idea what it means to veterans of wars and other sacrificial forms of service from this era when they receive a genuine thank for their service.

It was fun to ride the Northstar train down to a Minnesota Vikings game this past weekend with a Vietnam veteran seated across me knowing what was in store there. The Minnesota Vikings made a huge production in an effort to say thanks to veterans and active military personnel. I am thankful that veterans of the Vietnam war get some of their due and veterans of the war in Afghanistan have a much better place to come home to.

There are soldiers from Elk River fighting in Afghanistan right now, and we have not forgotten about them as evidence by the efforts to welcome them home with the World’s Largest Thank-you Card with 10s of thousands of signatures.

The same Elk River American Legion that Boelter’s father helped expand back in his day is there for the next crop of veterans.

Mike Beyer, the current commander, is committed to being there for both veterans and the community. It is when we bring the two together that we will have the best results.

That’s why the Yellow Ribbon status Elk River worked so hard to achieve will be an important part of the community’s response if Elk River is going to continue to be a good place for veterans to come home to.

Because as Carole Boelter points out, the importance of Veterans Day not just falls on the shoulders of Nov. 11. It’s an every day thing that requires time and attention.

I am thankful to live in a community that does not take that lightly. — Jim Boyle, editor