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Stanley County invites veterans for visit before Veterans Day assembly

November 12, 2017 GMT

A couple dozen veterans attended the all-district assembly held at Stanley County’s Parkview Auditorium Thursday afternoon to honor them, in anticipation of Veterans Day to be celebrated Saturday.

The veterans, students, teachers, and other guests made up a crowd of more than five hundred people.

When the five hymns for the different branches of U.S. military service were played, attendees were asked to stand if they were a veteran of that branch or if they had a family member who served in the branch. It appeared that most, if not all, of the hundreds in attendance were standing at some point during the playing of the hymns.

The full program included some standard pageantry, like the presentation of the colors, playing of the national anthem, singing of patriotic tunes (like “This Land is Your Land,” rendered by kindergartners through second graders), recitation of poetry, and remarks from distinguished guests.

A non-standard element was the presentation of a roughly 20-minute recently completed documentary by John Mollison: “South Dakota Warrior.” The film documents the heroism of World War II aviation hero John Waldron, who hailed from Fort Pierre.

But the day’s formal program was preceded by an informal gathering in the board room – with coffee and cookies, put on by the student council. As veterans and students mingled, they found out they had some previously unknown connections with each other.

For example, middle school students Taylee Stroup and Abby Wyly visited with veterans Sherman Monroe and Jake Weischedel. Monroe, age 87, served in the U.S. Army in 1953, and participated in Operation Upshot–Knothole, which consisted of a series of 11 nuclear test shots conducted in 1953 in Nevada.

Stroup and Wyly learned that in addition to his service in the army, Monroe had for 17 years served as superintendent of Stanley County Schools, retiring 26 years ago. Stroup and Wyly’s fathers attended school here when Monroe was superintendent, something they discovered in conversation with him.

As far as the nuclear testing went, Monroe described how he had to sit in a trench with 30 or 40 other soldiers when a atomic bomb was set off in the distance – mindful to keep their heads below the lip of the trench. After the explosion, they were sent towards Ground Zero to see how close they could get before their Geiger counters indicated the radiation levels were too high.

Monroe said that after the exercise, “They had trucks waiting for us, they swept us off, and ran a Geiger counter over us. If you weren’t beeping, you were clear to go.”

Monroe wasn’t beeping, he said.