PARKSTON — Attendees at the Veteran’s Day program in Parkston Monday were reminded to not take the sacrifices of military veterans for granted while area Purple Heart recipients and Gold Star families were recognized for the contributions of them and their families to the cause of freedom.

The program, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3298 in Parkston and the American Legion Post 194 in Parkston, saw hundreds of school students, members of the public and veterans and their families gathered at the National Guard Armory in Parkston to mark the holiday, which honors service members who served in the United States armed forces.

“We are here to honor our servicemen and members and to remember the sacrifices they have made and the courage it takes to defend honor, duty and country,” said Barbara McKean, commander of the Parkston VFW.

As part of honoring those veterans and their families at the Monday morning ceremony, District 19 state senator Stace Nelson and Dave Hoffman, mayor of Parkston, took the time to honor area Purple Heart recipients and Gold Star families. The Purple Heart is a military decoration that recognizes veterans who have been injured or killed in combat. A Gold Star Family banner indicates a family or family member who has lost a loved one in combat.

Among the Purple Heart recipients recognized Monday were Jerry Triebwasser, Richard Wagner, Bob Rekmanis, Robert Strunk and Truman Wages. Purple Heart flags and Gold Star banners were also presented to the Lorraine and Allen Montefering and Jo and Jim Boehmer families. Their sons, Army Staff Sgt. Jason Montefering and Army Sgt. Jeremiah Boehmer, died in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, respectively.

Nelson and Hoffman also signed a proclamation declaring Parkston a Purple Heart City, a designation that serves as an expression of gratitude to the veterans of a community who gave their lives or were wounded in combat defending American freedoms. A special sign marking the designation was unveiled as part of the event.

Student finalists for the Voice of Democracy and Patriotic Pen essay contests also read from their compositions. Choral and band music was provided by students from the Parkston School District

“Millions of Americans have fought and died on the battlefield here and abroad to defend our freedoms and our way of life,” McKean said. “Today our troops continue to make the ultimate sacrifice, and even as we lose troops, more Americans step forward to say that they are ready to serve.”

In his address to the audience, Nelson said despite his experience as a public speaker, he is always nervous when it comes to addressing other veterans and finding a way to express his gratitude for what they have put on the line for their fellow Americans.

“I always struggle with how to express that. How do I tell my fellow veterans how much South Dakotans appreciate their sacrifice?” Nelson said. “How do I put into words the love we have for them, the respect we have for them and the appreciation for their sacrifices?”

Nelson said he has seen firsthand what service members go through in the line of duty. He also saw what their families go through as they send their loved ones off to an unknown fate, all for the good of their country and countrymen. They are put in situations that do not guarantee their safe return, all in order to uphold the values established by the Founding Fathers centuries ago.

“If you listen today, what you hear is something that is not often appreciated. What you hear is the beautiful silence of peace. Now, we often attribute noise to freedom. Our national anthem. Fireworks. But the reality is, and any veteran will tell you, the truly beautiful part of freedom and living free is the silence that comes with freedom,” Nelson said. “You don’t hear the bombs exploding and bullets going off.”

It is the service members themselves who put themselves in a position to hear those noises and face those dangers and not back down when their country is in need, Nelson said. They do that so that other citizens do not have to.

“No doubt about it, the freedom was have today is not from empty promises from bloviating politicians. It is from the silence that we often take for granted. Even as I speak right now, there are thousands across the world with only one care and one hope driving them day in and day out while living in terrible conditions,” Nelson said. “Their only thought is that you get to enjoy the freedom and peace from those horrific noises of war.”

Let those veterans know how thankful you are, Nelson said, and use that freedom to continue to make America a better place for everyone and a guiding light to the world.

“So be that American that makes every veteran lift his head and say I’m proud that these folks appreciate the freedoms they have, and all you have to do is be a good, civil person," Nelson said. Be involved in the community in all aspects, and be an American that makes veterans proud and makes their sacrifice worthwhile.”

Hoffman expressed his gratitude to those veterans in attendance with humility and the deepest respect. It’s an example of how everyone can show they know what it means to be free Americans, he said.

“To all the veterans who are here today: thank you for your work. Thank you for your hardship. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us,” Hoffman said.