BELLE FOURCHE - The new Women of War residential job training center and a longtime veterans program volunteer were honored Friday, Nov. 11, 2011, at the Belle Fourche Middle School 15th annual Veterans Day program.
Teacher Reva Potter said plans this year were to honor Charles Cerney as their Veterans Day volunteer of the year. The longtime volunteer and leader in the school's annual program with the Veterans of Foreign Wars flag retirement ceremony died before this year's ceremony.
Potter said the staff decided to honor Cerney anyway, and present the plaque to his family and the Belle Fourche Veterans Honor Guard.
Students also presented $500 from a penny drive to the Women of War project in Belle Fourche that had just celebrated its grand opening earlier Veterans Day.
The women veterans' residential job training program also brought a special guest to the Middle School event, Brig. Gen. Myrna Williamson. The South Dakota native was the nation's highest-ranked military officer when she retired in 1989.
The ceremonies filled the middle school gym with family, friends and guests veterans and their families.
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Representing the Children of Veterans group, David Jeitz presented a set of flags representing the five branches of the American military to the city to fly at Pineslope Cemetery on the Avenue of Flags on Memorial Day.
Belle Fourche VFW Post 3312 Commander Nathan Juelfs presented essay and poster contest certificates to winners.
The school's program is the oldest in the Northern Hills. It began when retired Army officer Jim Matson and his wife Cynthia moved to Belle Fourche and searched in vain for a Veterans Day program in the area.
The middle school took up the challenge, and the program became a regular part of the school's curriculum as well as a way to honor more than 2,000 area veterans listed from student research.
Potter said the program has become a major vehicle to help teach citizenship as well as history as local veterans visit to tell about their experiences in the military.
The school band and chorus perform - and a presentation by Belle Fourche kindergarteners is a tradition. This year more than 130 kindergarteners were involved in the program.