‘Challenge is to find a better way’ Veterans Day asks to solve differences without war

By : 
Jordan Gerard

“Your challenge and my challenge is to find a better way.”

These were the final words of Leonard Myrah’s speech at the annual Veterans Day program was held Monday, Nov. 12 at Spring Grove Public Schools.

He spoke of a friend who told him during their service, “There has to be a better way to solve our differences.”

Myrah said as a farmer in his twilight years, he wants to leave the land he farms better than he found it. It will be left for the young students and adults that sat in the audience listening intently. 

“Today, it’s a better country in which to live and work,” he said. 

Myrah is a veteran of the Navy and was active during the Vietnam War. He was also a state legislator for two terms in the House of Representatives in Minnesota. He is a Spring Grove native, graduate and college graduate of Luther College. 

He spoke admirably about WWI and the many modifications to the armistice that ended the war. He also mentioned the armistice was signed at 5:45 a.m., but did not take effect until 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, leading to many more lives lost.

“All was quiet on the western front,” he said. “The guns were silenced.”

He also mentioned the use of propaganda, such as the song “Over There” by George M. Cohan, which encouraged many men to enlist in the service. The Spring Grove High School Choir, under the direction of Bethany Engen, sang the historic song.

Myrah explained the red poppy that is seen on Veterans Day. It was a flower that grew in “no man’s land” between the trenches in Flanders, Belguim. Ashton Towne read the poem, “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.

He also mentioned the two young men from Spring Grove who were the first to die in WWI and WWII. Their last names are the reason Spring Grove’s American Legion Post 249 has Dyrdal and Prolov in the name.

Senior Rhiannon Skauge spoke about her experience at Girls State this past summer. She thanked the Legion for sending her. 

She worked as a city recorder, running elections and holding meetings. Several of the mock trials and Senate sessions she attended were held in the actual rooms in the capital building.

“Everyone was outgoing,” she said. “There were some powerful personalities from some of the girls and I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to see them in government one day. I made a lot of friends and still keep in touch with them.”

Her favorite part of the experience was listening to the speakers. Several speakers were judges who talked about difficult cases and the political polarizations in today’s world. Another favorite speaker was a black female police officer, which made Skauge more aware of the challenges minorities face.

She enjoyed learning about local government, and though she might not have a job in government, she will definitely be involved in some way, she said. 

“We learned about the importance of voting,” she said. “It’s a right many around the world don’t have. We have our veterans to thank for the right to vote.”

Skauge added Girls State was an “amazing opportunity” and said it changes the way you see the world.

The Peacemakers Quilt Guild presented Quilts of Honor to six veterans including Curt Rustad, David Storlie, Tom Falbo, Bud Morey, Gordon Espelien and Steve Guberud. Each veteran named their branch(es) of service, what they did and how many years they served.

Legion Post 249 Commander Anne Doering welcomed the audience and opened the program. 

“We thank veterans in a lot of ways – discounts, quilts, free meals and more,” she said. “We will never forget the people who wear military uniforms. Let’s continue to say thank you for your service.”

As she closed the program, she said, “Thank you for thanking the veterans.”

The choir sang “A Tribute to the Armed Services,” by Lloyd Larson. Members of the military were asked to stand when their branch’s song was sung. 

After the program concluded, fourth graders were treated to a lunch with veterans.