U.S. Navy and National Park Service Co-Host 75th Anniversary of The Attack on Pearl Harbor.

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JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM — On Wednesday, December 7, 2016, the U.S. Navy and National Park Service will co-host a joint memorial ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Honored guests will include hundreds of Pearl Harbor survivors and other World War II veterans and their families as well as Dec. 7 witnesses, elected officials and dignitaries.

A moment of silence will be observed at 7:55 a.m. – the exact moment the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began 75 years ago. The guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97) will render pass-in-review honors to the USS Arizona, and a missing man flyover will be conducted above Pearl Harbor during the ceremony.

The Navy and National Park Service will conduct the ceremony at Kilo Pier on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, overlooking USS Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri Memorial.

Due to the large number of veterans and their families, as well as dignitaries and senior military and civilian leaders who plan to attend, seating for the general public will be extremely limited. Therefore, the public is encouraged to observe the ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center at World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument or streaming online.

Adm. Harry B. Harris, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, will be the keynote speaker. Other speakers include Laura Joss, regional director for the Pacific West Region of the National Park Service; Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, National Park Service; and Rear Adm. John Fuller, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific.

“The Navy and National Park Service are deeply honored to welcome back Pearl Harbor Survivors and other World War II veterans who are helping us commemorate the events that took place here 75 years ago,” said Fuller. “We look forward to hosting veterans and other distinguished visitors, international guests, families and friends as we ‘Remember Pearl Harbor.”

WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument Superintendent Jacqueline Ashwell said, “Nothing is more important to us here at the monument than commemorating the lives of those who served and sacrificed on December 7, 1941. Our professional lives are dedicated to ensuring their names and legacies live on for future generations. We’re honored to be a part of this journey with them and continue to be inspired by their exemplary service so many years ago.”

The ceremony will feature music by the Navy’s Pacific Fleet Band, a Hawaiian blessing, presentation of colors by the U.S. Pacific Command Joint Service Color Guard, rifle salute by members of the U.S. Marine Corps, wreath presentations, echo taps, and a vintage plane fly-by by the Pacific Warbirds. The ceremony will honor men and women who survived the attack and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country on December 7, 1941.

 

President Obama Asks For Flags At Half-Staff In Remembrance Of Pearl Harbor

President Obama Asks For Flags At Half-Staff In Remembrance Of Pearl Harbor

PIERRE, S.D. – President Obama has called for flags to be flown at half-staff from 8 a.m. until sunset on Wednesday, Dec. 7, in observance of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The President has issued a proclamation in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attacks that killed American patriots at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941.

South Dakota Congressional Delegation Meets With VA Secretary McDonald Following Hot Springs Visit

December 6, 2016

Washington, DC – U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and John Thune (R-S.D.), and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today met with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald following his Nov. 30, 2016, visit to the Hot Springs, South Dakota VA campus. During the meeting, the delegation encouraged Secretary McDonald to carefully consider input he received from veterans, staff and other community stakeholders before making any final decision on the future of the campus. The delegation also reiterated to Secretary McDonald that any reconfiguration of the Black Hills Health Care System should be made within the construct of a national realignment strategy for the Veterans Health Administration, as prescribed by law.

“Making sure veterans in the Hot Springs area have access to quality health care remains my top priority,” said Rounds. “While I would have preferred to join Secretary McDonald on his trip to Hot Springs, I am glad to have had the opportunity to meet with him today to hear about his visit and seek assurances that a decision on the future of Hot Springs has not been predetermined. The VA must continue to focus on what is best for South Dakota veterans and the Hot Springs community.

“I was encouraged by Secretary McDonald’s willingness to listen to the delegation’s perspective about how we view the future of the Hot Springs VA and by his commitment to continue engaging with the community it serves,” said Thune. “My recommendation to the secretary hasn’t changed. I still believe our veterans would be best served if the Hot Springs VA remained open and operational, especially the facility’s PTSD care, which is credited with saving countless veterans’ lives. It’s my hope that after today’s meeting and Secretary McDonald’s visit to South Dakota last week that he’ll make the right decision for our veterans.

“There is something very special about the ‘Veterans Town,’ both for the veterans it serves but also for the community of Hot Springs itself,” said Noem.  “With so much at stake, it is essential the VA Secretary approach this decision with accurate information, an unbiased perspective, and the shared goal of delivering the best quality healthcare to our nation’s veterans.  These are items we’ve insisted upon from the beginning and areas in which we will continue to hold the VA accountable going forward.  Our veterans deserve nothing less.”

Last week, Secretary McDonald toured part of the Hot Springs VA campus and held a town-hall meeting in Hot Springs to hear from veterans, VA staff and local residents. The delegation recently sent a letter expressing their disappointment and concern over Secretary McDonald’s decision to visit Hot Springs while Congress was in session, thus preventing their participation in the visit.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald Holds Town Hall Meeting on Possible VA Hospital Closure

By Herb Ryan
December 1, 2016

Fulfilling a promise to tour the Hot Springs VA Facility, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald toured Battle Mountain Wednesday, November 30, 2016 along with the VA’s Black Hills Health Care System team, along with members of Save the VA committee, the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans members. Following the tour McDonald shared lunch with American Legion and Disabled American Veterans.

A town hall meeting at the Mueller Center following the lunch gave veterans and citizens an opportunity to make a final statement before a decision is made on closure on the facility.

In a meeting with the press following the town hall Secretary McDonald said, ” I want to emphasize no decision has been made at this point, it’s my decision to make and I did not come here with a prejudice towards a decision” . On a possible date for a decision on the fate of the Hot Springs VA, McDonald continued, “Most of the data is in, I did get new data today and that will be taken into account. Again there is no specific timeline. My intention is to not shirk my responsibility, but to make a decision once all the data is in and has been reviewed”. When asked again for a possible point in time for a decision, McDonald said, ” I will make a final decision before January 20, 2017″.

 

 

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A citizen comments on the possible closure of the Hot Springs VA at a town hall meeting at the Mueller Center in Hot Springs, SD Wednesday, November 30, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald answers media questions following a town hall meeting concerning the possible closure of the Hot Springs VA at the Mueller Center  Hot Springs, SD Wednesday, November 30, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

Salute To Middle East Veterans -Operation Black Hills Cabin and Black Hills Veterans Writers Group

By Herb Ryan
November 13, 2016

Box Elder, SD – Surrounded by friends and comrades, veterans and their families gathered for a Salute to Middle East Veterans at the Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. The event, featured speakers from post 9/11 who talked about their experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bill Casper, a member of the Black Hills Writers Group opened the event with the pledge of allegiance to the flag, followed by opening statements by Bill, ” Those who have served and those currently serving the uniformed services are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others that have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation and internment.” Bill Casper then explained the POW MIA Remembrance Ceremony.

“The POW MIA Remembrance Ceremony”

As you entered the meeting room this morning, you may have
noticed a small table in a place of honor. It is set for one. This table
is our way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession of
arms are missing from our midst. They are commonly called POWs
or MIAs, we call them “Brothers.” They are unable to be with us this
morning  and so we remember them.

This Table set for one is small — Symbolizing the frailty of one
prisoner alone against his oppressors

The Tablecloth is white — Symbolizing the purity of their intentions
to respond to their country’s call to arms.

The single Red Rose displayed in a vase reminds us of the families
and loved ones of our comrades-in-arms who keep the faith
awaiting their return.

The Red Ribbon tied so prominently on the vase is reminiscent of
the red ribbon worn upon the lapel and breasts of thousands who
bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper
accounting of our missing.

The Candle, the candle is lit — Symbolizing the upward reach of
their unconquerable spirit.

A Slice of Lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter
fate.

There is Salt upon the bread plate — Symbolic of the families’ tears
as they wait.

The Glass is inverted — They cannot toast with us this morning.

The Chair — The chair is empty. They are not here

All of you who served with them and called them comrades, who
depended upon their might and aid, and relied upon them,
for surely they have not forsaken you.
Remember.

Until the day they come home.

Following the remembrance ceremony reading, Casper asked Paul and Karen Larson to stand and be recognized. Casper said,”Their son, Army Captain Ben Larson served with distinction in Iraq, but came home suffering from what all too many of our young men and women do, PTSD. Captain Larson suffered from severe ” survivors guilt”, found it impossible to cope with, and passed away. Captain Larson represents that group of heroes who are among us and  certainly need all the help we can give them.”

Casper then asked ” Would the veterans who served in WWII, in Korea and Viet Nam please sand or wave so we might say, “Thank you” for your service.” This was followed by speaker Larry Zimmerman, South Dakota State Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs talking on his “in country” experience in Afghanistan. And then Colonel Ryan Carignan the 28th Operation Group deputy commander at Ellsworth Air Force Base described the 34th Bomb Squadrons operations after 911 in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Salute to Middle East Veterans event was a joint effort between Operation Black Hills Cabin and The Black Hills Writers Group.
Following talks by SD Secretary of Veterans Affairs Zimmerman and  Colonel Ryan Carignan, Bat Baird, Retired USAF and co-founder of Operation Black Hills Cabin along with OBHC board member Ione Fejfar presented a video on the cabin followed by a talk on its mission.

Other speakers on the program were Retired Air Force Major Bob Liebman, SDNG member Sergeant Erin Dreis, and Corporal Branden Stackenwalt.

The Black Hills Writers Group.

Operation Black Hills Cabin

 

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Bill Casper, member of the Black Hills Veterans Writer’s Group and an “Ambassador” for Operation Black Hills Cabin and host of Salute to Middle East Veterans at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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(L-R) Colonel Graham Chestnut, Lt. Colonel Joe Dachout, and Lt. Colonel Chuck Childs sit in front of the POW/MIA Remembrance Table waiting for the start of the Salute to Middle East Veterans at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Paul and Karen Larson, parents of Army Captain Ben Larson who served with distinction in Iraq and later passed away from complications of PTSD are recognized and thanked for their son’s service to his country at the Salute to Middle East Veterans at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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South Dakota State Secretary for Veterans Affairs Larry Zimmerman recalls war-time experiences in Afghanistan at the Salute to Middle East Veterans at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Colonel Ryan Carignan the 28th Operation Group deputy commander at Ellsworth Air Force Base describes the 34th Bomb Squadrons operations after 911 in Afghanistan and Iraq at the Salute to Middle East Veterans at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Ione Fejfar, Black Hills Cabin Board member listens as Pat Baird, co-founder of Black Hills Cabin describes the concept and operation of the cabin at Salute to Middle East Veterans at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Retired Air Force B-1 bombardier/navigator Major Bob Liebman, shared his experiences about flying over Baghdad at the  Salute to Middle East Veterans at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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SD National Guard member Sergeant Erin Dreis, 200th Engineer Company and peer Support Specialist for the group Peace of Adventure, talks on the tragedy of military and civilian suicides and prevention at the Salute to Middle East Veterans at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Purple Heart recipient veteran Corporal Branden Stackenwalt, US Army 4th Engineer Battalion who was injured in Afghanistan September, 2009 talks about his experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan at the Salute to Middle East Veterans at the South Dakota Air and Space Museum in Box Elder Saturday morning, November 12, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

Veterans of Foreign Wars are Honored At Ceremony in Custer Cemetery

 

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D.D. Couch of Custer VFW Post 3442 reads a statement at the Veterans Day Ceremony at The Custer Cemetery Friday November 11, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press. see transcript below.

Custer, SD – This Veterans Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. honors the contributions and sacrifices of the nearly 22 million living veterans, and those no longer with us who have served our country in the name of liberty and justice.

From the jungles of Vietnam to the mountains of Afghanistan, from Bastogne to Baghdad, from Pork Chop Hill to the Persian Gulf, our veterans have borne the cost of America’s wars — and continue to stand watch over America’s peace. Today is their day to stand just a little bit taller and be recognized by a grateful nation that appreciates what the few have done for the many.

In times of danger and in times of peace, it is the selfless dedication of America’s veteran that continues to secure the freedoms on which our great country was founded. Every generation owes a debt of gratitude to these patriots of the past and present … those who set aside their personal goals in order to answer our great nation’s call.

Veterans Day salutes all who served, regardless of when or where. Gallant Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have conquered the sum total of their fears and endured inconceivable miseries and hardships, all for the sake of protecting the values upon which our great nation was founded.

In doing this, they have established a standard of courage and honor for the entire world to witness.

We must take the opportunity to keep alive the memories, sacrifices and accomplishments of our nation’s veterans, as we embrace every opportunity to further educate the public and our elected officials about the contributions the few have done for the many.

The VFW is honored to represent all who have and will serve, and we will continue to help you obtain the programs and services you earned, to advocate on your behalf in the Halls of Congress, and to support you and your families wherever you reside or are stationed.

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Veterans standing at parade rest waiting for the event to start at the Veterans Day Ceremony at The Custer Cemetery Friday November 11, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press.

 

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A 30 year Canadian Veteran and his family attended the Veterans Day Ceremony at The Custer Cemetery Friday November 11, 2016. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press.

 

Delegation Critical of Final EIS for Hot Springs VA

 

WASHINGTON  U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today November 10, 2016, issued the following statements regarding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) final environmental impact statement (EIS) on the Black Hills Health Care System and the veterans facility in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Any decision on whether or not to close the Hot Springs facility based on the results of the VA’s EIS will be determined by VA Secretary Robert McDonald.

“My primary concern, as it has been since the VA released its initial proposal, remains what is best for serving the needs of South Dakota veterans,” said Thune. “It is disappointing that the VA has continued to pursue a pre-determined outcome despite significant opposition from our veterans, who have sought the care they have selflessly earned in Hot Springs for over 100 years. Secretary McDonald has given his word to visit the campus before a final decision is made, and I remain committed to supporting an outcome that best serves all of our veterans.”

“I do have concerns about the final EIS released by the VA this morning,” said Rounds. “While we continue to conduct a thorough review of the EIS, we will also continue working closely with all stakeholders and the VA to make certain any final decision is in the best interest of South Dakota veterans and the Hot Springs community.”

“We have a responsibility, not only to serve our veterans, but to listen to them,” said Noem. “South Dakota’s veterans have made clear how important it is to them that services at the Hot Springs VA Hospital continue. Still, this administration has incrementally depleted the services offered and pushed forward a seemingly pre-determined plan to close the facility altogether. Now is not the time to close the doors and tell our veterans to find help elsewhere. This is a special place, which is why I’m once again renewing my call to Secretary McDonald to visit Hot Springs before any final decisions are made.”

22nd Annual Veteran’s Day Program – Custer Armory -Custer South Dakota

 

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Veterans and members of the audience stand for the pledge of Allegiance to the Flag at the 22nd Annual Veteran’s Day Program held in the Custer Armory November 11, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press.

THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the
United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands
one nation under God
indivisible
with liberty and justice
for all

 

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POW/MIA Empty Chair Remembrance Candle at the 22nd Annual Veteran’s Day Program held in the Custer Armory November 11, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

 

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Students from grade K-2 sing “Grand Old Flag” at the 22nd Annual Veteran’s Day Program held in the Custer Armory November 11, 2016. Photo:Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

The Real Heros – A Column by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard

The Real Heros
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

 Politicians have a tendency to try to take credit for things, especially in an election year.  They talk about how many jobs they’ve created, how they’ve kept our cities safe and how they’ve assisted the less fortunate. Our veterans, on the other hand, don’t seek the spotlight. They don’t expect recognition – even though they are the ones who really deserve the credit for our way of life.

That’s why we celebrate Veterans Day. To give credit to those who seek it least and yet deserve it most. It’s also an opportunity to remember those who fought in our earliest conflicts.

Next year will mark the centennial of the United States’ official involvement in World War I. This “war to end all wars” was a global affair which lasted from 1914 to 1918, but the United States did not officially enter until 1917. In 1915 and 1916, while the U.S. was still contemplating its level of engagement, groups of American men made the decision to enlist with foreign armies to fight against the Central Powers.

On their own accord, they volunteered to fight abroad, joining the British Army, French Foreign Legion and other Allied services. These men were citizen soldiers. They were farmers, machinists, dock workers and blacksmiths who left their day jobs to fight for freedom. They joined the struggle before it was even asked of them.

Now, as much as any time in history, we depend on our citizen soldiers, the men and women of our National Guard, to step up and defend our country. We count on them to defend our freedom abroad, and then to come back home safely to pick up where they left off with their families and their jobs.

This Veterans Day, 165 of South Dakota’s citizen soldiers are deploying to Kuwait. Volunteers all, the men and women of the 153rd Engineer Battalion and Forward Support Company are leaving their jobs and their loved ones to serve their nation abroad. They will be providing command, logistical, mechanical and transportation support to U.S. forces in the area. For more than one-third of the group, this is their second or third deployment.

Elected officials do the important work of fine tuning our laws and guiding public policy. Still, we should never forget who the real heroes are. Though they don’t usually make the front page news, our men and women in uniform are the ones to thank for our way of life. Without them, there would be no freedom.

Take a moment this week to pray for the men and women of the153rd as they head to Kuwait and for all of our soldiers who are deployed. Pray also for the families who are serving their country by bearing the burden of a loved one’s absence. And this Veterans Day, give credit where credit is due by thanking someone who has served to keep us free.

The Custer High School Student Council Presents The 22nd Annual Veterans Day Program

The CHS Student Council
Presents the 22nd  Annual Veterans’ Day Program
Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 2:00 pm
at the
Custer Armory

Parents & the public are invited to attend this special event by our Custer K-12 students to honor our country’s veterans.
Military personnel who have served, or who are currently serving, are encouraged to register at the door before 2 p.m., to obtain names for recognition and honor during this special program.  If you know a Veteran, please invite him/her to attend!

Each year the Custer School District presents an hour-long program to honor its veterans.  The program is sponsored by Custer Post #46, American Legion and completely run by the students.  It consists of Civil Air Patrol flag posting, patriotic music performed by all classes, the band and the choir, POW/MIA ceremony, remembrance of deceased veterans from the past year, individual recognition of each veteran in attendance by Custer Cub Scouts and the 6th Grade Class, and Civil Air Patrol flag retirement.

The Custer Armory is located at 527 Montgomery St. Custer, SD 57730