SHERBURN - On Friday, elementary students at Martin County West in Sherburn learned to appreciate the men and women in uniform who protect us overseas and at home.
It has become tradition for Sherburn students to see the various police agencies for law enforcement recognition week. But with the 1st Brigade of the 34th Infantry Division getting ready to deploy, Sherburn-Welcome Police Chief Brad Hughes decided it also was important to recognize local National Guard members.
"It's tough," Hughes said. "We figured out we knew four or five National Guard parents who have students here. These are students who won't see their parent for the next year of their life."
BEHIND?THE?WHEEL?— Jason Mix takes a photo of his son Adam behind the wheel of a PLS load system during a presentation in Sherburn on Friday.
Several military vehicles were parked on the Sherburn Elementary School's playground, in addition to a line of police vehicles for children to check out. Another addition was two members of the Patriot Riders, who handed out small American flags to students as they came outside.
"We're going to be busy, because there are deployments in Fairmont, St. James and Anoka on the same day," said Bruce Saxton, a Patriot rider.
Friday gave Saxton and fellow rider Al Voight a chance to show off their Harley-Davidsons they use as escorts for military deployments, returns and funerals.
"Which one's louder?" Saxton asked after Voight revved his engine. Saxton then revved his Harley so loud several children squealed and covered their ears.
Stephen Whitehead, a National Guard member who is not being deployed, is working with "Beyond the Yellow Ribbon," which tries to help military families on the homefront.
"It's an honor to be here in front of the kids, not just as a soldier, but for these students who have parents going off on deployment," he said. "We want students to be aware that some of their classmates are going through this. It's very wearing, and the kids show signs of that earlier than adults."
Because there is no active duty military base in Minnesota, some families left at home can feel isolated.
"We have some soldiers living here in Sherburn that are in different units," Whitehead noted.
He also paid homage to police, whom he said are important in keeping communities and, therefore, the country safe.
"They protect on a day-to-day basis," he said. "Police, the fire departments, they all do jobs that are very important."
One of the points of law enforcement recognition week is to highlight how police put their lives on the line. This year was especially poignant, as Fairmont police officer Chad Sanow shared his story of how he was shot while responding to a house fire in October. His protective vest is credited for saving his life.
"That one is just like the one I'm wearing," he said to a group of students trying on and "testing" one of the vests, by punching it.
"You can't feel that, can you," Sanow said to the student wearing the vest.
Sanow then demonstrated how the vests have a hard plate - by knocking on his chest - and a softer plate.
"Do you have to wear a different vest now since what happened?" a teacher asked in reference to the shooting.
"Nope, same as before," Sanow responded. "I will always wear this kind of vest, after what happened."