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Veterans Day: Minnesotans who served, and how they're being honored

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It is the 11th day of the 11th month, the moment when in 1918 fighting between the Allied Nations and German forces stopped, signaling the near-end of World War I.

Now, Nov. 11 is celebrated as Veterans Day – a day President Woodrow Wilson described in 1919 as a time to “be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory …”

There are approximately 369,149 veterans in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs 2014 report. About 21 percent of them are at least 65 years old. Since 9/11, more than 66,000 Minnesotans have been discharged from active duty – about 43,000 served in a combat zone.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 129,641 served during the Vietnam Era, 97,696 during the Gulf War, and 34,270 during the Korean Conflict. There are still 18,523 World War II veterans in the state.

Honoring veterans

The official Minnesota Veterans Day program will be at 10 a.m., at the Veterans Memorial Community Center in Inver Grove Heights. Officials including Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and more will be on-hand to honor those who have served. In addition, two fifth-grade students from Inver Grove Heights will read their winning essays on veterans during the program.

You can live stream the event here, or watch it on Metro Cable Network channel 6.

There are also events scheduled in cities across the state, including in Grand Rapids, Stillwater, Hastings, Luverne, Fergus Falls and more – click here to see a list.

Across the country today, the group Greenlight a Vet is asking people to turn on a green light – and keep it on all day – "as a symbol of appreciation and support for our veterans." It hopes the light will help start a conversation about how to help vets move forward as valued members of the community.

Stories of veterans

Today, news outlets and others are telling the stories of some of those 369,149 veterans. Here’s a brief look at some of them:

– One of Minnesota's World War II veterans, 90-year-old Richard Bender, is profiled in a story from the Pioneer Press. He served in the same PT boat squadron as President John F. Kennedy, and his 86-year-old wife, Delrose, is his caregiver.

– A Vietnam war veteran in East Grand Forks stepped out of a supermarket to find an anonymous person had left $100 and a thank you note on his windshield, the Grand Forks Herald reports.

– Jon Ashbrook, a 15-year-old Boy Scout, collected more than 150 bags of food to donate to veterans, going door-to-door and getting help form some local businesses, the Star Tribune writes.

– A flag featuring more than 120,000 signatures and messages of thanks to veterans was revealed at the Minnesota Wild game Tuesday night. WCCO's "More Than Names" flag has been in the works for months, and will be at the state's official veterans program.

– Jonathan Lindstrand, 36, has one of the largest private military memorabilia collections in the state, and he's putting all of it on display in Willmar for Veterans Day, FOX 9 says.

– Many veterans are finding an opportunity in the health care field, a trend the Duluth News Tribune looked at in a story.

– Then there's 86-year-old Ronnie Steffen, who has made another name for himself by singing at the local grocery store, KARE 11 reports.

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