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Valor of veterans: Brainerd Public Schools honor holiday

Several veterans were honored Friday, Nov. 9, during Brainerd High School's Veterans Day program. They all received handmade quilts from the Quilts of Valor organization. Pictured from left: Charles Extrand, Thomas Doran, Wayne Hayes, Art Ludwig, Charles Halsted, Fred Ehrich and Russell Ness. Not pictured: Robert Mudge. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch video and gallery1 / 2
Korean war veteran Fred Ehrich recieves a quilt from Cheryl Bailey, of Quilts of Valor, as a token of gratitude for his service Friday, Nov. 9, at Brainerd High School's Veterans Day program. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch video and gallery2 / 2

Flags waved, trumpets sounded and voices rang as area schools honored military veterans Thursday and Friday in anticipation of Veterans Day Sunday, Nov. 11.

Brainerd High School

Retired Brig. Gen. Art Ludwig, a 1949 graduate of Washington High School in Brainerd, and his daughter, retired Col. Laura Ludwig, served as the keynote speakers Friday, Nov. 9, during a program at Brainerd High School.

Art Ludwig's service includes active duty in the Korean War, as commanding officer for the 194th Cavalry Squadron and commandant of the Minnesota Military Academy, among other posts. He retired from military service in 1984.

Laura Ludwig, now a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, served in the Army Reserve and National Guard and took part in five tours, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both father and daughter drew attention to servicewomen, with Art noting the percentage of women veterans has grown from about 1 percent in World War I to about 10 percent today, with increased opportunities for women in the military.

"There's 29,000 women veterans here in Minnesota," Laura said. "Unfortunately women veterans still often feel overlooked when they come home. Their service and sacrifice often go unrecognized. Their needs for support ... go unmet. So while our men in uniform are publicly honored and supported, our women veterans too often feel invisible."

She mentioned the Women Veterans Initiative, a Minnesota group advocating for and increasing awareness around female vets. Her dad noted how six of the top 10 students from the most recent graduating class at the United States Military Academy—also known as West Point—were female.

"It is a great opportunity for any women to go into the service, or any young people," Laura said. "The benefits are awesome, and you're a part of this wonderful family that we call military. And there are experiences that you will never forget."

Later in the program, veterans Charles Extrand, Charles Halsted, Arthur Ludwig, Robert Mudge, Russell Ness, Fred Ehrich, Wayne Hayes and Thomas Doran each received a handmade quilt from Quilts of Valor volunteers as a token of gratitude for their service. Don O'Brien was also on the list, but was not able to attend and will receive his quilt later.

Quilts of Valor, according to its website, is an organization dedicated to covering service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing quilts. More than 200,000 quilts have been distributed in all 50 states since the group's inception in 2003.

"These quilts developed over a long period of time," Marcia Stevens, of Quilts of Valor, said Friday, explaining each quilt may have gone through 100 or more people before reaching its final destination.

"If you wear that quilt out, you let me know, and you'll get a new one," Stevens told the veterans.

The high school's chamber orchestra, wind symphony and ninth- through 12th-grade choirs provided music for the program.

For more photos of the Brainerd High School Veteran's Day program, go to

Harrison Elementary

Students at Harrison Elementary School sang patriot tunes like "God Bless the USA" and "Fifty Nifty United States," during their program Friday. They watched a video presentation with photos depicting veterans and their families and listened to five students share their thoughts on Veterans Day and why the holiday is important to them.

Baxter Elementary

Third-graders at Baxter Elementary School entertained their students, staff and veterans with patriot songs during their program Thursday titled "We Honor You."

Principal Tammy Stellmach explained the importance of Veterans Day, recounting her childhood of growing up with a father in the military.

"Veterans Day is special in my family, as I'm sure it is in many of yours," she told students, then describing the holiday as "a day to remember and recognize the millions of Americans past and present whose military service has kept our nation strong and safe."

Stellmach recognized students with family members who served or are serving in the military as well.

Garfield, Lowell and Riverside elementary schools also had Veterans Day programs Thursday and Friday.

Theresa Bourke

I started at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and the Brainerd School District. I follow city and school board officials as they make important decisions for residents and students and decide how to spend taxpayer dollars. I look for feature story ideas among those I meet and enjoy, more than anything, helping individuals tell their stories and show what makes them unique.

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