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Annual Veterans Day program honors those who served for sacrifices, defending freedom

Annual program offers thanks to service members and recognizes area veterans

Heather Bullerman, a program manager with the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs, speaks Thursday at the Veterans Day program at the Davison County Fairgrounds. (Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic)
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The holiday has been an annual remembrance for over 100 years, starting as a way to remember the soldiers who fought for the United States in World War I — also known as the Great War. The holiday originally marked the signing of the armistice between the Allies and German that effectively ended what was, at the time, the largest war the planet had ever seen.

Now known as Veterans Day, an observance is held every year on Nov. 11 as a salute to the men and women who have or are currently serving in the United States military.

The tradition continued Thursday at the Davison County Fairgrounds in Mitchell, as the annual Veterans Day program was held with a strong crowd of over 200 veterans, service organization officials and family members in attendance.

“If you gave the oath, whether you were a soldier, sailor, marine, airman or guardian, we’d like to thank you for your service,” said Heather Bullerman, the event's featured speaker and program manager with the South Dakota Department of Veteran Affairs Sioux Falls office.

Bullerman said the exact focus of the holiday may have changed over the years, but its current format provides an excellent chance for members of the public to recognize and thank veterans for their dedication, service and sacrifice to keeping the country safe and free from hostile enemies.


Those veterans are the greatest natural resource the United States military has available. While American technology and research may be formidable, none of it is as important as the dedication and clear vision of those people who choose to give themselves for a larger cause, she said.

Dwight Stadler, with the American Legion Post 18, address the crowd Thursday at the annual Veterans Day program at the Davison County Fairgrounds in Mitchell. (Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic)

“Today, Veterans Day is a celebration that honors all of America’s veterans for their patriotism, for their love of country and their willingness to serve and to sacrifice for the common good,” Bullerman said. “And it is also a day of reflection. Whether you wear the uniform today or wore it years ago, you, the veterans, represent the fundamental truth. It is not powerful weapons that make our military the greatest in the world, it is the heart and soul of every person who chooses to support and defend our freedom.”

Bullerman, herself, dedicated part of her life to active service as well, having joined the Air Force Auxiliary and Civil Air Patrol cadet program as a teenager. After high school she became a member of the South Dakota Air National Guard, eventually retiring with a rank of master sergeant.

She said she appreciated the experience, even though it took her in a slightly different direction than she had originally dreamed.

“I joined because I had high hopes of becoming a fighter pilot. Unfortunately the good Lord had different plans for me,” Bullerman said. “As it turns out, I have very poor depth perception, which apparently is very important when it comes to landing.”

But the unexpected is not necessarily bad, she said. She ended up working maintenance on the very jet fighters she had hoped to one day fly, and found it the next best thing to actually taking a seat in the cockpit. A career of service can take people to unexpected locations, but those new locations can hold some of the most satisfying results.


“I could not have asked for a better career. I was able to develop many life skills and many adult relationships that would last a lifetime,” Bullerman said.

American flags could be found in abundance Thursday at the Veterans Day program at the Davison County Fairgrounds. (Erik Kaufman / Mitchell Republic)

She also praised South Dakota for its treatment of veterans, noting South Dakota had been named the top state in America for veterans. She credited that to its citizens — who appreciate those who served — and the many state benefits. She noted the state program that names bridges after fallen military members, of which one such ceremony took place Thursday in Alexandria.

She noted that if anyone knows a veteran who may have an illness or injury related to their service, or are in need of health care or assistance, to seek assistance from county, state and national service organizations, who are likely in a position to help.

“On this day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national consciousness to fulfill our obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free,” Bullerman said.

The program served as a way for members of the public to offer their thanks to service members past and present, and also a way for those area service organizations to recognize various veterans in a number of categories. Those honored with recognition included:

  • SFC Steve Tobin - Tobin, with the South Dakota Army National Guard, was honored as the Full-Time Soldier of the Year at the program. He currently resides in Mitchell with his wife Dalene and daughter Mariah, 5, son Trevor, 26, and daughter Tessa, 23. He expects to retire in July 2022 after 35 years of service, 20 of which were active service.

  • Sharon Broghammer - Broghammer was recognized as the 2021 Auxiliary Member of the Year. A member of the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 18, she has been active with the organization for 13 years and is eligible through the membership of her father. She currently serves as unit secretary and district chaplain.

  • Hugh Holmes - Holmes was recognized as the Veteran of the Year for 2021. He has served in a number of capacities, including serving as the State Commander for the Department of the American Legion.

  • SPC Ty Dykstra - Dykstra was honored with the M-Day Soldier of the Year Award. He serves as a member of the South Dakota Air National Guard, and has been with them since high school. In 2020 he was activated in support of the COVID-19 response mission under Presidential Proclamation 9994 from Oct. 2020 to March 2021. He has received the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.


Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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