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Palace 'Salute to Military' steeped in patriotism

Capt. Deb Bodenstedt of the USS South Dakota (SSN 790) Commissioning Committee speaks during a special dedication ceremony for the 2019 Corn Palace murals on Friday in front of the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 3
Retired EM1 Jeff Peart, of Mitchell, secures corn to the wall for the USS South Dakota submarine mural following a special dedication ceremony for the 2019 Corn Palace murals on Friday in front of the Corn Palace. Veterans were welcomed to help nail corn to the mural and will later receive a free postcard featuring a completed version of the mural. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 3
The public listens as Nape Duta sings the honoring song during a special dedication ceremony for the 2019 Corn Palace murals on Friday in front of the Corn Palace. Approximately 150 people attended the event. (Matt Gade / Republic)3 / 3

Hundreds of hearts were filled with pride and patriotism during the inaugural dedication of the 2019 Corn Palace "Salute to the Military" themed murals.

More than 150 people made their way to Mitchell to gather in front of the Corn Palace and pay special tribute to all branches of the armed services Friday. The USS South Dakota Battleship from World War II, Native American code talkers and veterans like Jack Thurman, of Mitchell, are either already or will be featured on the 2019 murals decorating the historic building. Thurman is known for being pictured on a famous World War II photograph of servicemen raising the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima in 1945.

The event included Mitchell Mayor Bob Everson officially proclaiming Friday as USS South Dakota Day in Mitchell. After the ceremony, veterans lined up to place ears of corn in the mural that will showcase the USS South Dakota and Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt was busy taking their names and address, so he could send a postcard of the finished mural to the veterans that participated.

The various presenters from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces touched on the importance the state of South Dakota has had in protecting the freedoms of the United States and keeping the American spirit alive.

"I commend the community of Mitchell and the Corn Palace committee for what they have done by dedicating this years murals to the members of the military," National Guard Adjutant Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch said. "South Dakotans have punched above their weight in military service for years."

Tom Muenster, from the USS South Dakota Commissioning Committee, was impressed by how the city and members of the community came together to celebrate South Dakota's heritage.

"It's been fantastic working with the folks from the Corn Palace and the city of Mitchell. It means a lot to a lot of South Dakotans who have served in the military or have family members that have served," Muenster said.

The submarine will be commissioned in February, becoming the fourth vessel in military history to carry the South Dakota name. The submarine, which will weigh 7,800 tons and measure to 377 feet, will have more than 130 crew onboard. The submarine will also have sonar capabilities to detect ships up to 3,000 miles away and a nuclear reactor that will power the submarine for the 30-plus years its expected to be in service.

"It's monumental and humbling as a veteran to see this giant mural and the entire side of the Corn Palace dedicated to veterans," Capt. Deb Bodenstedt said. "This is a visual depiction of how much the city of Mitchell and the state of South Dakota appreciates our service.

"To have the battleship memorialized and the new submarine around the corner on the side of the Corn Palace makes the buttons of my shirt burst with pride," Bodenstedt added.

The event also included a motorcycle ride from Sioux Falls to Mitchell with a special blue USS South Dakota commemorative 2018 Harley-Davidson motorcycle leading the way. That vehicle will be at the commissioning ceremony, and then will be displayed at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame in Sturgis.

In his closing statement, Reisch recalled some history, noting that 76 years ago this month, South Dakota legend Capt. Joe Foss shot down five Japanese airplanes in one day during two combat missions.

"Today, thousands of U.S. soldiers, airmen and Marines are deployed in combat zones around the globe," he said. "(A total of) 365 members of the South Dakota National Guard are currently deployed in six different locations around the world, and another 309 are preparing to deploy."