ARMSTRONG - Armstrong pride had a couple good reasons to swell Wednesday when both Veterans Day observances and a sendoff pep rally for the Mustangs who went to the state football playoffs came back-to-back.
Jon Larsen, recently retired Armstrong-Ringsted English teacher and Vietnam veteran, emceed Memorial Day observances by drawing a parallel between the Army and football. In both you get a uniform and a helment. However, said Larsen, "the one goal we had was coming home."
Vickie Rooney of the Armstrong Betterment Club urged those present to sign a petition to name city park Veterans Memorial Park, then Lt. Col (ret.) Dave Grussing, Armstrong city council member, gave the keynote address.
Grussing said he came from a tradition of military service. He was mobilized in 2004 under Operation Iraqi Freedom and served as battery commander at Fort Bliss, Texas where replacements were trained. In July 2009 he concluded 28 years of service.
"Most people around the world envy our rights and freedoms. But there are those who envy them," Grussing said.
"The gentlemen seated over here know the meaning of sacrifice," Grussing said, indicating veterans seated in the Armstrong-Ringsted High School gymnasium.
Grussing told the story of John F. Thorson of Armstrong, an Armstrong High School graduate, who led an attack on a Japanese position, getting severely wounded. Just as his fellow soldiers approached him, one of the Japanese threw a grenade which Thorson rolled over on, taking the full brunt of the blast and saving the lives of the men in his unit.
Thorson was posthumously given the Medal of Honor Sept. 13, 1948.
Grussing offered as one definition of a hero someone who does what other people are either unwilling or unable to do. While World War II troops were deployed for the duration of the war, Vietnam and Korean soldiers had set tours of duty; however, they did not fare much better, said Grussing, also acknowledging the many families who sacrificed when their loved ones were at war.
Grussing encouraged everyone to not be bashful about going up to veterans and thanking them for their service.
Private First Class Thorson's official Medal of Honor citation reads:
He was an automatic rifleman on 28 October 1944, in the attack on Dagami Leyte, Philippine Islands. A heavily fortified enemy position consisting of pillboxes and supporting trenches held up the advance of his company. His platoon was ordered to out-flank and neutralize the strongpoint. Voluntarily moving well out in front of his group, Pvt. Thorson came upon an enemy fire trench defended by several hostile riflemen and, disregarding the intense fire directed at him, attacked single-handed. He was seriously wounded and fell about six yards from the trench. Just as the remaining 20 members of the platoon reached him, one of the enemy threw a grenade into their midst. Shouting a warning and making a final effort, Pvt. Thorson rolled onto the grenade and smothered the explosion with his body. He was instantly killed, but his magnificent courage and supreme self-sacrifice prevented the injury and possible death of his comrades, and remain with them as a lasting inspiration.