Northern Tama County observes Veterans Day
Local schools, Eikamp Insurance host well-attended events
Veterans Day – which took place on Saturday, Nov. 11 this year – was observed in several places across northern Tama County on Friday. Public programs were held in the morning at both North Tama and Union Middle School in their respective gymnasiums, while later that day Pete Eikamp and his staff at Eikamp Insurance hosted the annual free Veterans Day Lunch at the Dysart Community Building.
North Tama’s program featured several speakers including National Honor Society (NHS) president Jamie Jacobs and guest speaker Brigadier General (Ret.) Martin Graber of Fort Madison.
Brig. Gen. Graber’s daughter Rachel Donaldson is an English teacher at North Tama where both of her daughters, Adalynn and Eliza Donaldson also attend school.
Prior to Brig. Gen. Graber’s keynote address, high school social studies teacher Matt Walston provided an update on the National Honor Society’s Field of Flags fundraiser for the non-profit organization Disabled American Veterans (DAV). For every $10 donated to the cause, a flag was placed just down the hill from Traer’s Taylor Park Military Memorial. In total, North Tama NHS raised $480 for DAV, Walston shared, placing 48 flags in the park.
“I hope that [the flags] will remind us all the things we owe today and every day to our Veterans,” Walston told the audience, which in addition to the student body, included local Veterans and their families.
After an introduction by Landon Kucera, Brig. Gen. Graber – a native of Donnellson, Iowa who spent 32 years and 23 days in service, and today represents Iowa House District 100 in Lee County – took the stage.
“Not every community [hosts] an event like this,” Brig. Gen. Graber said while complimenting North Tama on the Veterans Day program.
The brigadier general then spent much of his speech answering two questions – ‘What is Veterans Day?’ and ‘What are Veterans?’
“Veterans Day is a day when we recognize the men and women who have served in uniform – and continue to serve – our great country. It’s one of the bedrocks of our foundation because without our military and the service they provide, we would not exist as we are today, we would be a different country,” he explained.
He also addressed the importance of thanking the families of Veterans who did not make it back.
“Even those people who make the ultimate sacrifice are Veterans,” Brig. Gen. Graber said. “When people leave for the military and don’t return – the ultimate sacrifice – the family still grieves that, for a long time … Their lives have been changed and they’ll never be the same again.”
Also during the program, the band under the direction of Channing Halstead skillfully performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hymn to the Fallen,” while band students Ellery Runge and Lila Knittel performed a stirring flute duet.
The program ended with Taps performed by students Joshua Lasley and Calleigh Staker, followed by a moment of silence.
In what has fast become a community tradition, Eikamp Insurance owner Pete Eikamp hosted a free Veterans Day Lunch at the Dysart Community Building on Friday.
With the help of the Tama County Pork Producers grilling out back, Eikamp and his employees including Dysart Mayor Tim Glenn, Wendy Wieben, Cady Schmidt, Chelsea Sills, Jim Owens, Max Eikamp, Pat Wood, Jennifer Blohm, Ronda Posusta, and Nicci Brown served up a delicious lunch to both area Veterans and members of the public.
Just before noon – while most of the tables in the community building were occupied by those enjoying the lunch – U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa’s second district which includes Tama County stopped by to visit with local Veterans and their families after spending time earlier in the day up the street at the Brick-a-Brack Building’s Holiday Open House.
While Hinson and her staff were unable to enjoy a lunch plate themselves due to time constraints, they did step outside just before departing to visit with Tama County Pork Producers’ Dennis Gienger, Brent Beichley, and Owen Koester who were manning the grill behind the building.
“We’d do anything for the Veterans,” Gienger said – a sentiment held by many in the county – as he flipped over a sizzling pork chop.
If you are a Veteran reading this, thank you for your service – service which continues to make our way of life here in northern Tama County and beyond possible.