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‘I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag’

Veterans Day observed in Traer, Dysart

North Tama band student, freshman Lila Laws (right) receives a hug from her grandfather, a Veteran from La Porte City, following North Tama’s annual Veterans Day program held in the high school gym on Friday, November 11. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
Veteran Kevin Eikamp (left) smiles alongside his son, Eikamp Insurance owner Pete Eikamp, during the agency’s annual free Veterans Day Meal held on Nov. 11 in the Dysart Community Building. The elder Eikamp was wearing his American Legion uniform which included a jacket inherited from the late Jim Winter of Dysart, a WWII Veteran who was on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
A U.S. Army Veteran (right) holds his hand over his heart during the explanation and reciting of The Pledge of Allegiance on Friday, Nov. 11 as part of the annual Veterans Day program held in the North Tama High School gym. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
North Tama senior Olivia Ketter speaks during the annual Veterans Day program held in the high school gym on Friday, Nov. 11. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
North Tama social studies teacher Matt Walston speaks during the annual Veterans Day program held in the high school gym on Friday, Nov. 11. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
Staff Sergeant Byron Podhajsky introduces himself as part of the annual Veterans Day program held in the North Tama gym on Friday, Nov. 11, while senior Olivia Ketter (left) stands beside him. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
Vietnam Veteran Thomas Podhajsky of Garwin, a 1963 Traer High School graduate, introduces himself as part of the annual Veterans Day program held in the North Tama gym on Friday, Nov. 11. Podhajsky was in attendance alongside his Veteran son Staff Sergeant Byron Podhajsky and older brother, Vietnam Veteran David Podhajsky. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
North Tama social studies teacher, Intelligence Specialist Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Hoskey smiles while giving the Veterans Day address in the high school gym on Friday, Nov. 11. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
North Tama senior Jadyn Rausch speaks during the annual Veterans Day program held in the high school gym on Friday, Nov. 11. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
North Tama band students (l-r) Madison Schults, Alexis Chizek, and Calleigh Staker perform Taps alongside their teacher Channing Halstead in the North Tama High School gym on Friday, Nov. 11 as part of the annual Veterans Day program. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
Dysart American Legion member and Veteran Charlie Cranston (left) makes his way through the line during Eikamp Insurance’s annual Veterans Day Meal held in the Dysart Community Building on Friday, Nov. 11, while Bri Lorenzen (right) serves. Lorenzen said at least 94 individuals were served during the free lunch which featured ribeyes and hamburgers (meat courtesy of Eikamp Insurance) grilled up by the Tama County Cattlemen’s Association which donated their services in honor of the day. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
Everett Schmidt, 3, smiles broadly while sporting some very “American shoes” – as he described his fancy footwear – on Friday, Nov. 11 in the Dysart Community Buidling. Schmidt was assisting his mother Cady Schmidt as she worked alongside her fellow Eikamp Insurance coworkers to serve Veterans, their families, and members of the public during the agency’s annual free Veterans Day Meal. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER
Apron-clad Dysart Mayor Tim Glenn who also works for Eikamp Insurance works to prepare coffee and dessert for Veterans, their families, and members of the public during the agency's annual free Veterans Day Meal held in the Dysart Community Building on Nov. 11. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Several events were held throughout northern Tama County in honor of Veterans Day this past Friday, Nov. 11 including the annual Veterans Day program held in the North Tama High School gym and the free Veterans Day Meal sponsored by Eikamp Insurance in Dysart. Both events honored those who served for keeping our communities safe and making it possible for – in the words of Johnny Cash – America’s ‘ragged old flag’ to continue to fly high.

Cash’s 1974 spoken word single ‘Ragged Old Flag’ – a song that features an older gentleman in a small American town discussing all the reasons his community’s ‘ragged old flag’ still matters – was highlighted during the North Tama program.

“As I was helping the National Honor Society students prepare for this year’s assembly, I wanted to incorporate something different from years past,” social studies teacher Matt Walston explained to the audience comprised of area Veterans and their families alongside North Tama students.

“I found several different songs I felt were worthy of the reflection and honor that I feel that this day deserves. But when a song popped up on my search entitled ‘Ragged Old Flag’ by Johnny Cash, it became clear that this was the song I wanted to choose.”

Walston said that most of his students had never heard the song before – a song he believes is as relevant today in 2022 as it was almost 50 years ago when it was released.

“When Johnny Cash wrote it, America was stuck in the throes of the Watergate scandal,” Walston continued, “when many Americans began to have doubts about the United States government and whether our country was upholding the values it was supposed to.”

“I believe that the message behind the song is just as meaningful today as it was back then – if not even more so.”

Just before playing Cash’s 1974 recording, Walston ended with, “I hope … [this song will] cause you to reflect on the meaning of our flag, our country, and above all else, give you a deeper appreciation for the great things our Veterans have done for each of us.”

In addition to Walston’s ‘Ragged Old Flag’ feature, North Tama’s program – organized by members of the National Honor Society, Walston, and fellow social studies teacher, Intelligence Specialist Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Hoskey – also included a welcome address by senior Olivia Ketter, an explanation and reciting of The Pledge of Allegiance, the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by the high school band, a poetry reading by senior Madison Schults, and a flag folding ceremony.

Veterans in attendance – from as far back as the Korean War which began in 1950 up to the nearly 20-year War in Afghanistan – were then asked to introduce themselves one by one, an annual tradition that honors local men and women who served.

Following a brief but poignant address by Hoskey and a stirring performance of “Hymn to the Fallen” by the band, senior Jadyn Rausch brought the speaking portion of the ceremony to a close with a farewell of appreciation.

A talented trio of band students – baritonist Madison Schults, tubist Alexis Chizek, and trombonist Calleigh Staker – with assistance from band director Channing Halstead on trumpet then performed Taps.

A moment of silence took place immediately thereafter, bringing the ceremony to a close.

As Veterans and their families made their way out of the high school gym, freshman band student Lila Laws could be observed receiving a gregarious hug from her grandfather, a La Porte City Veteran, in attendance.

It is safe to surmise – as the final words of the Johnny Cash song proclaim – the Veteran grandfather was ‘mighty proud’ of both his saxophonist granddaughter and ‘that ragged old flag’ he fought to protect hanging high on the gymnasium wall behind him.