Viterbo University hosts smaller Veterans Day ceremony despite COVID-19

Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 6:42 PM CST
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The pandemic has caused many local Veterans Day ceremonies to go virtual, but that didn’t stop one university from hosting theirs in-person and taking away an important message.

It was a morning to honor those who served our country, as a smaller-scale audience gathered in the San Damiano Chapel at Viterbo University for an annual November 11 tradition.

“It started in approximately 2011,” said Keith Purnell, Viterbo Military Aligned Student Support director. “Father Conrad Targonski, who is also a veteran, eluded to the fact that it was just a gathering around the flag pole.”

This year’s guest speaker for the ceremony was 19-year veteran and Viterbo alumna Master Sergeant Jacqueline Franck, who currently serves in the Wisconsin Air Force National Guard and stressed the importance of today’s occasion.

“A lot of people mix up Veterans Day and Memorial Day," said Franck. "It’s nice to put that message out there what Veterans Day is and also to let people know people are still fighting a fight that might not be on the battlefield, but also might be within.”

Even in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers of today’s event looked to ensure everyone’s health and safety.

“We actually thought as late as dinner time last night, we were actually going to have to throw a curve ball and change some things around," Purnell added. "Fortunately, we haven’t.”

The service would then conclude with V.F.W. Post 1530′s playing of Taps and raising of the POW-MIA flag in the Assisi courtyard.

“I’ve been a member of the V.F.W. here in La Crosse since 2001," said Jamie Eklov, V.F.W. Post 1530 Commander. This is my first ceremony I’ve taken part in as a POW flag rsising ceremony, but I think it’s a very good honor especially for our fallen comrades and remember all the veterans still serving at this point.”

One thing Franck hopes audiences can take away is not just thanking local veterans on November 11, but also continuing to be there for them in the long run.

“I challenge everybody," Franck said. "If you know a veteran, that you should truly reach out to them and adopt them--and make it, not only saying thank you today but making it a commitment in life to constantly reach out to them and see how they’re doing. If you can reach out and just help one, that’s potentially saving somebody’s life and you may not even know it.”

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