Mitchell area military veterans who dedicated their lives serving in the armed forces united over lunch Monday to celebrate Veteran’s Day together.

Hugh Holmes, an Army veteran and Mitchell American Legion member, emceed the annual Veteran’s Day Luncheon held at the Davison County Fairgrounds and recognized all current military service members and veterans in attendance. An emotional Holmes announced Monday’s luncheon will be the last time he emceed the event, thanking the crowd for the memories.

“When Forrest Gump said, ‘He was tired and wanted to go home’ after he ran across the country, that’s how I feel as well,” Holmes said. “I’m tired and I want to go home, but I want to thank you all for the many memories we have made here.”

After many years of leading Mitchell’s Veteran of Foreign Wars chapter, Martin Christensen was recognized for his commitment and dedication to the local veterans group. The 33-year Army veteran was honored as the 2019 Veteran of the Year.

“Determination and energy are just two of the attributes of our 2019 Veteran of the Year,” Holmes said of Christensen. “He helped the dream of developing a post home for the VFW Club 2750, and it has materialized. He is not afraid of hard work, and you could find him with a broom and scrub bucket keeping the club clean and presentable to the public.”

Christensen played a major role in the fundraising efforts for the downtown VFW renovation project, which remodeled the upper floor of the 215 N. Main St. building into a meeting room that will also display local military artifacts. In addition, an elevator that transports people to the upper floor is also being installed.

“It’s just amazing seeing all of us come together, and it’s a brotherhood,” Christensen said. “The bond we have is passed on from one veteran to the next.”

While the meal was free to all veterans, proceeds from a $10 meal price for all non-veterans will go toward the VFW renovation project and area local veteran organizations.

U.S. Marine veteran Ron Stoneback, was recognized for his efforts in leading the local Honor Guard and Color Guard. Stoneback serves as the director of bands for Dakota Wesleyan University, and he presented certificates to the local Honor Guard and Color Guard members in attendance.

“He got seven American Legion units from around the area to come and do an honor guard,” Holmes said of Stoneback. “He put on an amazing concert honoring the American Legion throughout the state.”

As active members of the Army National Guard, Armour native Clayton Lau and Brian Bierema, of Mitchell, were honored with the Soldiers of the Year award during the veterans luncheon. Lau resides in North Sioux City, and recently graduated from Mitchell Technical Institute.

Melissa McMillan, a local volunteer who donates her time helping organize events such as the annual Memorial Day flag placement, received the Auxiliary Member of the Year award.