Governor Pawlenty honors southwest Minnesota veterans
LUVERNE -- The veterans of World War II heeded the call to service and saved the world, said Governor Tim Pawlenty Thursday at the Honor Flight Southwest Minnesota Inaugural Flight banquet Thursday at Blue Mound Banquet Center, Luverne.
"Our nation needed you. The world needed you. The cause of freedom needed you, and you responded with great heroism, courage, strength, valor, honor, duty, patriotism," Pawlenty said to the crowd of veterans, family and friends who filled the hall. "You are our heroes. We appreciate you. We love you. We would not have the country that we have without you."
Often, Pawlenty remarked, thanking a World War II veteran for his or her service is answered with a reply of "I just did my job," or "I just did what I was asked to do."
"It's a set of comments and a mindset that reflects an incredible act of generosity and service to your fellow citizens ... but it's also a gesture of incredible courage and strength and commitment and service," Pawlenty said. "... you didn't just do your job. You saved the world. And so, I don't know of many job descriptions where you say 'Job description: save the world.'"
Pawlenty thanked the veterans in attendance at the banquet for their service and for saving the world. He also thanked fellow banquet attendees Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State, Minnesota Sen. Jim Vickerman (DFL-Tracy) and Minnesota Rep. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton) for their support of veterans, the military and Honor Flight specifically.
Pawlenty read a passage from the Soldier's Creed, which he felt illustrated the commitment of World War II veterans: "I'm a warrior and member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and I live the Army values. I always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade."
"It's in that spirit of couragous service and dedicated service that our nation asked each of you to serve. You stood up and raised your hand and said 'I'm ready' and 'I'm available...' all of you did incredible things," Pawlenty said, quoting Winston Churchill's saying of "Never have so many owed so much to so few."
Pawlenty's father was among the 326,000 Minnesotans who served in World War II. Only about 36,000 of those veterans are alive today.
"Our words are not adequate to thank you for what you've done," Pawlenty said. "... We are grateful for all that you've done, and you are role models. You are heroes, and we will never forget. God bless each and every one of you. Thank you very much."
Pawlenty's wife, Mary, was invited to speak at the banquet because of her longtime friendship with the World War II veterans of Luverne, some of whom are going on the Honor Flight.
"... we started friendship in that way that Minnesotans do: first we had coffee," Mary said. "They have been my friends for quite a long time, and I'm just so overjoyed that tomorrow will be this wonderful moment in time... It's our hope that when you visit the (World War II) memorial, that you will feel the depth of love and care and appreciation that our country has for you."
Mary thanked the veterans for their courageous service during the war as well as the fruitful lives they have led since, and promised to impress on her own children and grandchildren the importance of what the World War II veterans did for the United States.
Ritchie, whose father was a World War II veteran, praised the veterans as well as the people of southwest Minnesota, who gathered together to make the Southwest Minnesota Honor Flight happen.
"Thank you for being a model that other cities, counties and regions can follow," Ritchie said.
Vickerman recalled when his father came back to the farm and told everyone the war was over.
"We all celebrated. We thought the war was over. But wars keep coming and coming... It's not over yet," Vickerman cautioned. "We've got a war going on, whether you agree with it or not... and we need to move away from that."
He thanked the veterans for what they've done and the safety they have provided to people of the United States.
Magnus, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, choked up as he thanked the veterans, recalling the days in history no one forgets -- the days of historic battles and triumphs.
"The day when you're a veteran, and you walk up to the yellow line and raise your hand, and you promise... promise to defend the United States against her enemies... that's a day that no veteran will ever forget," Magnus said. "And tomorrow, when you youngsters head out to Washington, that'll be a day you won't forget either."