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Crow Wing County’s Armed Forces Veterans Tribute Day celebrates local veterans

Dozens gathered outside the All Veterans Memorial Friday, July 22, outside the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse as a way to honor veterans in the Brainerd Lakes area.

People attend the Armed Forces Veterans Tribute Day.
People attend the Armed Forces Veterans Tribute Day on Friday, July 22, 2022, at the All Veterans Memorial in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — During the Armed Forces Veterans Tribute Day ceremony, sayings of “Veterans are the ones who truly serve this nation,” and “Every day should be a day of remembrance for those who serve,” brought applause from the crowd.

The day was set aside as a way to honor veterans in the Brainerd lakes area.

Dozens gathered at the All Veterans Memorial Friday, July 22, outside the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse in Brainerd as the Rev. Eusebia Rios, a retired U.S. Air Force chaplain, opened the ceremony with a prayer.

During her 33 years in service, Rios was a dental assistant specializing in oral surgery before she was called into ministry and became a chaplain.

“I had the amazing honor of walking alongside so many different jobs, professions and people from all over the world and pray with them,” Rios said during an interview before the event. “I learned a lot about culture and society. An amazing, amazing time. I wouldn't give it up for anything in the world, except I did have to retire, so amen.”

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Before the event started Rios remembered one deployment where she presided over the loading of fallen service members as being both tough and inspiring.

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“One deployment, during the surge — one of the things that a chaplain would do is go before the flag-draped cases and do a ramp ceremony out in the flight line,” Rios said. “And I remember one night, it was a really rough night. We had 15 that were killed in action. And every single person at 2 o'clock in the morning, that was on that base location, got up, had their uniform on and made a gauntlet. And we carried each one of those souls into the back of that plane. I had the honor of doing the ramp ceremony, praying for them, and praying for their buddies that would be missing them. And it was just a night I will never forget. It tugged at my heart.”

Also speaking at the event was Dale Johansen with Project New Hope, an organization started in central Minnesota in 2008. The organization's mission statement is to provide education, training and skills necessary for veterans to manage their lives after wartime service.

Project New Hope hosts weekend retreats three times a year in Minnesota for veterans and their families, and the events are intimate, limited to no more than 10 families.

“During the retreat, (veterans and their families) come out for like a weekend,” Johansen said. “At the retreat, some of the sessions might be on intimacy, or might be on communications. Sometimes we find everybody's communication is good, but they're mad. So then we start with anger management. We have no set agenda. There's an agenda posted because that's got the mealtimes on it — meals are important.”

When it started, Project New Hope was one of the first organizations to bring in both veterans and their families to be part of the healing process, according to Johansen.

Also speaking during the event were Crow Wing County Veterans Service Officer Erik Flowers and Karla Christensen with the Crisis Line. Flowers said he encouraged any veterans who need help with benefits or those who would like to find out more about their benefits to contact his office. Christensen said the Crisis Line is the only local crisis line available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

“We can give them direction as far as maybe someone is suicidal or we can get them connected with help,” Christensen said. “If they are homeless, we can help point them in the direction of a shelter.”

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Singer April Williams sang both the national anthem at the start of the ceremony and “God Bless America” before a closing prayer led by Rios. The Brainerd VFW Post No. 1647 and the Brainerd American Legion Post No. 255 provided a rifle salute and performed taps.

The color guard performs a 21-gun salute
The Brainerd VFW Post No. 1647 and the Brainerd American Legion Post No. 255 color guard performs a 21-gun salute during the Armed Forces Veterans Tribute Day on Friday, July 22, 2022, at the All Veterans Memorial in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Armed Forces Veterans Tribute Day sponsors included the Brainerd VFW, Brainerd American Legion, Crow Wing County Veteran Services, Central Lakes College Veterans Resource Center, Brainerd Area Sertoma Club and the Northland Arboretum. The event was organized by Tammy Ebertowski.

Veterans Services

If in a crisis or in need of help, call the Help Line at 218-828-HELP (4357) or 800-462-5525. To get more information on being a volunteer, call 218-828-4515.

To find more information about Project New Hope, visit projectnewhope.net .

The Crow Wing County Veteran Services Office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 204 Laurel St. on the first floor, Suite 14, in Brainerd. The office may be reached by phone at 218-824-1058 or toll-free 866-507-1058.

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Related Topics: VETERANSCROW WING COUNTY
Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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