Butterfield--Butterfield-Odin Public School conducted their annual Veterans Day ceremony Monday morning, and--in perhaps the morning's most poignant moment--children in kindergarten-second grade presented the veterans--several of whom had tears in their eyes--with personalized thank-you notes.
“We remember today the veterans of all branches and of all times,” said featured speaker Richard “Doug” Valen.
Valen's family moved to Butterfield when he was in fourth grade, and he graduated from Butterfield High School in 1954. On Monday, he spoke fondly of his time in the military and his time in Butterfield.
“There's no one here who is more from Butterfield than I am,” he said. “Some of the best years of my life were spent here in Butterfield.”
He participated in sports, played in the band, sang in the choir, and was a member of 4-H during his formative years. On Monday, he was introduced by his son, Tim, who called his father “my role model for the past 53 years.”
Valen served in the Air Force for 28 years, and he spent a year in Vietnam--for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1966, he was assigned as an instructor at Squadron Officer School in Alabama's capital city of Montgomery. He then inhabited various roles, including teaching positions, in different locations before retiring in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel.
Following his time in the military, he began working as a ground school instructor and A230 flight training manager at Northwest Airlines' training center in Eagan. He retired from that post in 2001, and he currently resides in Savage with his wife, Patricia, who is from St. James; they have three children and four grandchildren.
During his speech, Valen said he was looking forward to the school band playing “Mansions of the Lord”--the hymn composed by Randall Wallace for the 2002 war film he directed titled, “We Were Soldiers.” The film, starring Mel Gibson, Greg Kinnear, Madeiline Stowe, Sam Elliott, and Barry Pepper, tells the story of the Battle of la Drang in November 1965, and Valen said he was part of that battle.
Dave Stordalen is the school's band director, but he's also a veteran who remains active in the United States Army National Guard. He said the band enjoys playing the piece, because “they get to play it loud and proud.”
For the complete story, please see Thursday's print edition of the St. James Plaindealer.