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Minnesota ceremonies mark Veterans Day, centennial of WWI armistice

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World War I armistice centennial
Todd Hintz, dressed in a World War I soldier's uniform, reads the poem "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon during a ceremony at Northrop Auditorium on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, to mark the centennial of the end of World War I. He was joined by Mary Challman, dressed in a World War I nurse's uniform.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Thousands of Minnesotans gathered across the state Sunday to mark Veterans Day and commemorate the centennial of the end of World War I.

At many of the ceremonies, bells rang out at 11 a.m. — remembering the armistice that stopped the fighting in World War I at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918.

At the state of Minnesota's Veterans Day ceremony in Inver Grove Heights, military leaders and state lawmakers recognized veterans of every branch of the armed forces. Those who could, stood to be recognized.

Each of the veterans in the room had a story to share — ones they pass along to their children and grandchildren.

Veterans Day ceremony in Inver Grove Heights
Peter McKenna and his mother Mary McKenna, 95, attend the state of Minnesota Veterans Day ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Community Center gymnasium in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. Mary McKenna met her husband while serving as a cadet nurse at the end of World War II.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Mary McKenna, 95, was escorted to the event by her son, Peter. Mary McKenna served as a cadet nurse in World War II.

"She met my father in the hospital — she was his nurse — he was blinded in Germany in the ending days of World War II," Peter McKenna said. "She took care of him, they married, moved back here to Minnesota from Washington, D.C., and had nine children."

Peter pushed his mom's wheelchair on Sunday, decorated with red, white and blue balloons. In Mary's hands — which once helped heal Peter's father — she held not one, but two small American flags.

Veterans Day ceremony in Inver Grove Heights
Veteran Lou Michaels, 80, who served in Navy, watches the Veterans Day program in Inver Grove Heights on Sunday.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Lou Michaels, 80, who served in the Navy, said the holiday means a lot to veterans and their families — but it also has the power to unite people.

"Our immigrants, who were our forefathers — they came to America not knowing anything," he said. "And now, I'm sorry — it's just wonderful that we all have this camarederie, comrades."

Veterans Day ceremony in Inver Grove Heights
A crowd gathers for the state of Minnesota Veterans Day program at the Veterans Memorial Community Center gymnasium in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Michaels said the day serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by military families.

"You've got to remember we're still in conflict, and with our great nation and our great people behind our nation — our military men and women — it is very important that we know that we need security," he said.

This year's program focused on the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. The crowd participated in a nationwide tolling of bells in remembrance of those who served and sacrificed. 

A bell also tolled Sunday morning at Northrop Auditorium on the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus, followed by the playing of taps.

World War I armistice centennial
Navy veteran David Anderson rings a bell during a ceremony at Northrop Auditorium on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, to mark the centennial of the end of World War I. The bell rang at the time fighting ended in World War I -- the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Following the ceremony, a series of speakers read the names of all Minnesotans who died in service in World War I, in chronological order.

World War I armistice centennial
Matthew Mehaffey, artistic director of the Oratorio Society of Minnesota and a University of Minnesota faculty member, reads the names of Minnesotans who lost their lives while serving in World War I, during a ceremony at Northrop Auditorium on the university's Twin Cities campus on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, to mark the centennial of the end of World War I.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Matthew Mehaffey, artistic director of the Oratorio Society of Minnesota and a University of Minnesota faculty member, was the first speaker. And the first name he read was Curtis Sarff, a native of Browerville, Minn., who died while serving with Canadian forces in spring 1915; that was before the U.S. entered the war. Sarff was buried in Belgium.

World War I armistice centennial
Dylan Stobart from the University of Minnesota marching band plays taps during a ceremony at Northrop Auditorium on the university's Twin Cities campus on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, to mark the centennial of the end of World War I.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

In Inver Grove Heights, Air Force veteran Melissa Wolf said Veterans Day brings a much-needed reminder to the masses of the sacrifice made by veterans.

"You are working elbow-to-elbow with veterans each day; you might not even know that they were at one time in the military," she said. "So I do like that they still celebrate things like this. It fills me with honor and tears, even — it is amazing."