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Michelle's column: Something special in Farmington

I felt a little out of sorts Monday. It was Veterans Day, and I was sitting at my desk all day, instead of spending time with Farmington’s veterans.

It was unsettling for me. This year is the first I can remember when the American Legion and VFW didn’t have a Veterans Day breakfast and program. Without a place to have it and a limited budget to work with, the annual program — however humble it was — didn’t happen this year. And that felt very weird to me.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy being with so many of our veterans during last Thursday’s Patriotic Day ceremony at Farmington High School. Actually, I really enjoyed being a part of that ceremony, and I’m very proud to say I am affiliated with it.

I don’t remember how I started out writing the script for the emcees. It started four years ago, while I was president of Am-er-ican Le-gion Aux-iliary Farm-ington Unit 189. I was on the Patriotic Day committee back then, and I somehow wound up being the person to write the script.

I’ve scaled back my participation on the planning committee, but I still get to work with the emcees. This year, I worked with FHS seniors Jake Hoffman and Cyndi Schmidtke, co-presidents of the Yellow Ribbon Student Chapter at the high school.

They did a fantastic job, by the way. The day before, Cyndi admitted she was a little nervous. Just a couple hours before the ceremony, Jake was handed an extra letter to read during the ceremony, and he’d not had a lot of time to practice it. But you’d never have known any of that from watching them.

I know the veterans who were there enjoyed the program. This year’s event was open to all veterans, but it especially focused on Vietnam veterans.

Let me tell you, the high school’s recital hall was filled to capacity. There are 800 seats in the room, all of which were filled. People stood on the stairs and at the back of the recital hall. There were about 100 students in the high school band, and probably as many — if not a few more — among the three groups who performed vocal numbers.

The guest speaker this year was Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito. Besides an impressive military career, Commissioner Shellito is largely credited for his role in establishing Minnesota’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Network.

You know we do something special here in Farmington when, after the program, the commissioner’s wife remarked that Farmington has set the bar higher for other communities when it comes to planning Veterans Day programs. It was a very nice compliment, to be sure.

So, sure, I was a little out of sorts on Monday because we didn’t have a Veterans Day program on Veterans Day. On the other hand, when I think of all of the things this community does to support our veterans throughout the year, I know we’ve got something pretty awesome here.

And I’ll say it one more time: Thank you, veterans. Thank you on Veterans Day, and every day.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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