The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office gave the Presentation of Colors at the Gardner Veterans Appreciation Program Monday, Nov. 7 at Gardner City Hall. Staff photos by Lynne Hermansen

Lynne Hermansen

Veterans were celebrated and recognized Monday, Nov. 7 at Gardner City Hall as part of the city’s appreciation program and reception.
The program included the presentation of colors by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, many songs by the Prairie Star Quartet including The National Anthem, a video, poems, speakers and an introduction of the city’s new veteran’s banner program.
Shirley Allenbrand, Johnson County Commissioner for the 6th District, was also in attendance.
Todd Winters, mayor, said it had been a couple of years since they had been able to host the appreciation program in person and they were thrilled to be back at City Hall for the event.
“This is a special celebration,” he said. “We are here to honor veterans for their achievements, their heroism and their devotion.”
Winters said the city started the program to recognize servicemen for their sacrifices and commitment to protect and serve the country.
“Each of you had different reasons you decided to join the military, but all of you made the same decision and placed your lives on the line for our freedom,” he said.
Winters said on behalf of the city they wanted to thank veterans and their families; along with those in spirit.
“It is an honor to celebrate you,” he said. “We will remember to never forget the effort you made to our country.”
Pastor Rick George, New Life Community Church, said he was reminded of a “little known and rarely recognized man from the Old Testament of the Bible, Benaiah.
“One of Davids mighty warriors, who on one occasion chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed the lion,” he said. “It reminded me of the courage and bravery it takes to defend and to serve. It’s an honor to be here.”
Amy Nasta, deputy city administrator, introduced the city’s new veteran banner program.
She said earlier in the year council member Kacy Deaton had challenged the staff to honor veterans in the city’s downtown area.
“And help maintain the small town charm of a growing city by permanently honoring veterans who make up the fabric of the community who make Gardner home, attend USD 231 schools and own local businesses,” she said.
Nasta said publicly honoring veterans paved the way for future generations to understand service to country is an admirable calling to be honored and celebrated.
The banner program will be displayed November 2023.
The program allows the display of banners on downtown poles to honor local veterans.
The banner costs will be from the applicant and the city will pay the annual $780 installation labor costs, removal costs, administrative costs and possible mounting hardware costs.
More information can be found on the city’s website.
Jim Pruetting, city administrator, introduced a video paying recognition to military men and women who served and sacrificed their lives.
“We want to recognize those that served and their families, but also those that couldn’t be here today and gave the ultimate sacrifice in their service,” he said.
John Swainston, a veteran poet and writer, read a few poems about military service.
His first poem, “Glorybound”, was abut the fall of 1965. His second poem, “Walking”, was about a change.
Jason Radel, Gardener Edgerton educator and Air Force veteran, said he was honored and proud to be there.
He enlisted the year before his Senior year of high school and said his time in the Air Force were some of the best years of his life.
Radel shared how when he was stationed at St. Andrews Air Force base, he would visit the Vietnam Memorial often and visit with veterans.
“I was in awe of these heroes that came before me,” he said. “Everything they had been through and sacrifices they made. It was an honor to have them share their stories with us.”
Radel said his experiences in the military are incredible, but it also taught him a lot about wanting to be a better person.
It didn’t matter what a person looked like or their background, he said, the military helped shape the lives of so many people.
Radel said their hearts were made to serve.
“I will forever cherish my time,” he said. “I am extremely grateful for those that served and their families that sacrificed for their country. You are the truest of heroes, even if you try not to take that title.”