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From left, Mitchell High School seniors Luke Bartl and Joe Morgan hold the American Legion thank-you coins they were given by event emcee Hugh Holmes during a Veterans Day luncheon Monday at the Davison County fairgrounds. The pair gave a program about their participation in Boys Nation last July, an event sponsored by the American Legion. (Photos by Ross Dolan/Republic)

Awards presented during Veterans Day luncheon

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life Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Those who served in America’s armed forces weren’t forgotten Monday in Mitchell, where hundreds of veterans and their families attended a Veterans Day luncheon program at the Davison County Fairgrounds.

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The event included the presentation of awards: Soldiers of the Year, Sgt. Maj. Lathe Ragels and Spc. Kris Morris; Veterans of the Year, Jenna Schmaltz and Bill Jackson; Auxiliary Member of the Year, Karen Prickett; and New Veteran of the Year, Pvt. Rylie Kasdorf.

The VFW gave William Peacock an award for outstanding volunteerism for his service in maintaining the VFW Post building prior to and during events that led to the post’s demolition earlier this year. Peacock refused to take pay during the difficult period.

The event also brought together old friends, like Gordon Williamson and Jimmy Traupel, both of Mitchell. Both men wore their leather flier’s jackets — Williamson from his time flying Phantom F-4 jets in Vietnam, and Traupel, who was a B-17 gunner during World War II.

Williamson, 72, is a 20-year veteran of the Navy who flew numerous combat missions over North Vietnam from 1966 to 1972.

Traupel, 90, who served with the Army Air Corps, flew 25 missions as a B-17 waist gunner, and nine missions as a nose gunner.

Williamson said each Veterans Day, he remembers aviator comrades who died in Vietnam.

“We didn’t get to bury our losses over there,” he said, an emotional catch to his voice. “Some died over land, some over water — and some were left behind.”

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