As I'm writing this, I just now left the Belle Fourche High School Veterans Day observance.
So first, a word about Myron Eliason for those who don't know him. The BFHS student council recognized him as Veteran of the Year.
He's a Korean War vet who served in that theater on a Coast Guard cutter that was not as long as a football field. He tells how it went through storm-tossed 50-foot waves. Also, Eliason was stabbed in August of 2012 while offering a ride to a guy half his age - while he was en route to Sturgis to sell American flags.
What wasn't mentioned is that Myron has been honored at the Belle Fourche Middle School Vets' program for longtime participation in classroom programs leading up to Veterans Day. He was there again this year. He's active in many area veterans' work. He proudly reminds folks that the Coast Guard is a uniformed military service, even if they are best known for saving lives at sea.
Emily Stambaugh won this year's Voice of Democracy speech competition at the high school.
Her speech is worth mention because it sets Belle Fourche as an example of how tough times bring out the best in Americans.
The speech noted how the community came together after this year's early October blizzard. Neighbors helped neighbors stay warm if possible and they pitched in to clear huge piles of storm debris. They also are among leaders in rancher relief funds, she said.
One thing that hit me personally Monday morning is that there are no more American World War I veterans.
They already were old men when I was a kid - at least "old" from the perspective of a teen.
Their stories, unfortunately, also were disappearing under the greater number of tales from the guys my Dad's age who were in WWII.
The last interview I did with a WWI veteran was roughly 15 years ago.
He told of a sad winter duty. He stacked bodies of men in his infantry company like cordwood to await spring thaw so they could be buried.
My interview followed his somewhat belated honor from the French government for WWI service to that nation.
He never left the United States.
We tend to forget the worldwide flu epidemic that hit around 1917. It hit that East Coast military camp as hard as any wartime battle.
But WWI changed the world. It brought incredible numbers of battlefield casualties. Armistice Day, Nov. 11, was later proclaimed to recognize the end of that war and promote the cause of veterans and world peace. After World War II, the holiday was renamed to recognize all veterans.
Emily's contest speech ended with optimism that as long as the community spirit seen in Belle Fourche after the blizzard remains, so can American democracy.
Me? I look at guys like Myron and other vets I've known through the years as the real example.