The veterans’ town |

The veterans’ town

The Hot Springs, S.D., school district supports veterans and makes sure all students are aware of what the veterans have done for all of us. On Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11, the school held its annual program to honor veterans. The colors were posted and retired, a demonstration was given on how to fold the American flag and the meaning of each section of the flag. The high school band and choruses from multi levels performed the medley of service songs as each veteran stood if they could, to commemorate their branch of service. This year there were many, many empty seats where the veterans usually sit on the main floor chairs because neither the State Home nor the Veterans Administration brought their residents. How sad that these men and women were kept away from a celebration of their service to our country, purportedly due to COVID. The ones who were vaccinated were not even allowed to attend. The students did the school and community proud. It’s inspiring to see youngsters enjoying their patriotism.

Hot Springs is rightly known as the Veterans’ Town because it has the (South Dakota) Michael J. Fitzmaurice State Veterans’ Home and a federal Veterans’ Administration, are here. Both establishments were constructed at Hot Springs due to the warm, soothing waters and the climate. (A local newspaper, the Hot Springs Star, printed on Feb. 13, 1889:, had this: “The most beautiful weather we have had this winter is appreciated by the denizens of the “Banana Belt” and everything is in readiness to make a vigorous attack on the spring work.”) Yes, it got this name for the most temperate climate in the Black Hills and for that matter, in South and North Dakota, collectively referred to as “The Dakotas” on national weather news.

Beyond the services offered to veterans, the community members are avid supporters. When the federal government tried to close the VA, area people banded together to stop the closure — and they were successful. Everyone pitched in to one degree or another yet it was a core group that really carried the water. They met weekly for many months, some traveled to Washington, D.C., to plead the cause, and there were fund raisers galore. The Save the VA Committee, as they were called, got representatives from the National Historic Trust, Denver office as well as the D.C. office, to come to meetings with the VA personnel who traveled from Minneapolis and D.C. On an historic day for the state, all three of our Congressional delegation attended an area meeting at the American Legion on April 13, 2012. At the time, it was Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., Sens. John Thune, R-S.D., and Tim Johnson, D-S.D.; Johnson had suffered a stroke and was wheelchair bound. When they toured the VA, Sen. Johnson had the best understanding of the facility’s accessibility.

To further push on behalf of the veterans on Aug. 14, 2014, Rep. Noem hosted a Congressional House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in Hot Springs, another red letter day for the town and nearby counties.

The military served the country and it’s a pleasure for us to let them know how much they are appreciated. God bless the USA.

Peggy Sanders

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