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Despite the snow and the cold, hundreds came out for the dedication of the new Veterans Memorial in Evergreen Park in Brainard on Sunday, Nov. 18.

Members of American Legion Rejda Post 273, Dwight Post 110, Prague Post 254, Valparaiso Post 371 along with members of the community were present for the 40-minute dedication ceremony.

The ceremony had three guest speakers, Staff Sergeant Ashley Delisle of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, Department Commander Lyle Bartels of the American Legion in Nebraska and Sen. Bruce Bostelman of the Nebraska Legislature.

Delisle spoke to the audience about her experience visiting the grave of Anton Rejda Jr. in France, who the American Legion Post in Brainard is named after. She went on to speak about the experiences of all those who serve in America's Armed Forces.

“The American experience is unique, because we have rarely experienced the enemy on our soil, at our gate,” Delisle said to the crowd. “We do not live in fear of violent conflict experienced daily by some many others around the world. We have our military men and women to thank for that.”

After her speech, she presented Rejda Post Commander Jim Polivka with a framed picture of Rejda’s headstone.

In Bartels’s speech, he spoke on the importance of the memorial.

“This ceremony and this memorial is a very good thing, but it goes a lot farther than that. This memorial is a very necessary thing,” Bartels said to the crowd. “It honors and pays tributes to all of our deceased soldiers and veterans, and it also shows our praise and thanks for our living soldiers and veterans.”

He went on to say that it's not celebrities who make America great, but the everyday men and women who serve in the military.

“And I don’t care how many touchdown passes they throw, or how many medals that they bring home from the Olympics, it is not our athletes that makes America great,” Bartels said to the crowd. “What I believe makes America great is the common, ordinary people that step forward and serve this country in the armed forces.”

Bostelman spoke on the importance of the work the U.S. military performs on a daily basis to keep the country safe.

“This memorial stands as a testament to their sacrifices, dedication and service,” Bostelman said to the crowd.

To end the ceremony, a 21 rifle salute was conducted by the Rejda Post. After the ceremony, the crowd surrounded the memorial to pinpoint the engraved names of friends and family on the wall.

The memorial consists of a wall featuring the engraved names of 303 area veterans. Among those featured on the memorial are seven servicemen who were killed in combat. They are Anton Rejda Jr. in World War I, Joseph Zavodny in World War II, Victor Brousek, Ernest Dolezal and Edward Chmelka in the Korean War, and Clarence Novak and Allen Kudlacek in the Vietnam War.

Robert Dvorak of Bellevue and his son Michael Dvorak were among those in attendance at Sunday’s ceremony. Robert said he enjoyed the ceremony.

“The ceremony was great, could have been a little bit warmer, but this is great. For a little town, what a deal,” he said.

He said his father was a World War II veteran and his grandfather a World War I veteran. The two were featured on the memorial wall, something Robert Dvorak described as “kind of emotional.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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Eric Schucht earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 2018. He has written for The Cottage Grove Sentinel, The Creswell Chronicle, The Pacific Northwest Inlander and The Roseburg News Review.

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