At the top of their voices, the audience at the Veterans Day program held Nov. 12 in the Redwood Valley schools gym in Redwood Falls cheered for veterans. Led by Josh Day, who served as the emcee for the program, the chant of “veterans” echoed through the gym.

“That was outstanding,” said Day.

As the chant went up the veterans seated in front, as well as those sitting with the Redwood Valley students held their heads up with pride. Some of them smiled. All of it was being done in their honor.

One day a year is dedicated to honoring veterans, and that day dozens in attendance demonstrated their appreciation for those who have served loudly and clearly.

That appreciation continued as Matthew Borkenhagen spoke about the value of veterans. Borkenhagen served in the Minnesota Army National Guard and is an Iraq campaign veteran.

“It means a lot to me that you show your enthusiasm for veterans,” said Borkenhagen, adding he appreciates the support being demonstrated by those who showed up for the program.

Borkenhagen said as a veteran who has served overseas he knows how important it is for a community to show its support for those who are serving, as well as for the families they leave behind as they serve.

Borkenhagen said he could never say enough words to let people know how much he loves his country, adding the essays written by students which were shared during the program put into words the kinds of feelings he has as a veteran.

When people attend Veterans Day programs, share their thoughts in essays and express their appreciation it leads those who have served to believe that they did the right thing, he said.

“Supporting veterans is supporting your very own community,” said Borkenhagen, “because we can’t have one without the other.”

When veterans serve away from home it is the community members who step up to keep things going, and those who do that are doing their part to serve their country as well.

Borkenhagen said the freedoms the United States enjoys are envied around the world, adding that is why so many people want to come here. Those freedoms, Borkenhagen told the students at the program, allow them to make the choice to do whatever they want to do in life.

“The important thing is, it’s your choice,” said Borkenhagen, adding for some that might mean serving in the military or it could mean being a supportive community member.

Borkenhagen served overseas for two years. That, he said, meant being away from his wife and daughter, which broke his heart every day. He said there may have been times when he took family for granted, but that quickly goes way when you know you can’t.

Every veteran who served their country makes that choice, said Borkenhagen.

Veterans, he said, don’t go out looking for words of thanks.

“The veteran community is a very humble community,” he said, adding veterans often feel embarrassed by words of thanks.

Yes, he said, they appreciate those words, but that is not why they serve.

Being a veteran never stops, said Borkenhagen, adding even though he does not wear the uniform anymore he would gladly give up his life to ensure the freedoms this country enjoys.

He is certain most veterans would say that, too.