Scott and Stephanie Wright sang the national anthem followed by the invocation by Don Friese. Members of the Legion Auxiliary led the flag salute.
Brandy Thieman, daughter of Alan and Valerie Thieman, spoke of her time at 2016 Girls State. She said, “It was a great experience. I met many new people. I also learned how town, county and state governments operate, how campaigns run, and finding solutions.” She ended by thanking those who gave us our freedom we have today.
Derek Stuhr, Boys State representative, was unable to attend and sent his apologies.
Thieman introduced keynote speaker Retired Lt. Colonel Keith Heithoff of Elgin. He said he had miscounted his years of service and had actually served 33 years. He enlisted in the Army in 1982 at age 16. Seven in his class went into the service.
Heithoff stated, “Today, there are a lot of things going on . . some good and some bad. I’m proud to be the third generation to wear Army green. My daughter, who is present, also wears Army green.”
He asked all present who had served in the military to raise their hands. He went on to say: “We recognize all those families who have members serving or have served. Remember families do not have a vote on who serves. You cannot imagine how important it is for a soldier to receive a phone call or letter from home. There are many who serve and not everybody gets hit, but we need to remember physical wounds heal faster than the mental wounds.”
He added, “Post Traumatic Stress comes forth when the lights go down. In the past 15 years, we have more solders committing suicide than we are losing to bullets. This cheats families out of an individual, and we need to get a fix for this. We owe a lot to our dead, but we owe a lot more to our living veterans.”
“I have served 20 years in the National Guard. While I was engaged in farming, the Iraq war began. Officers were needed in Germany because so many had been called to duty in Iraq.”
Read more in the May 31 Petersburg Press, Print and E-Editions.