As we go into veterans day weekend, a southwest Missouri organization takes time to say a special thank you.
Members of the Nevada Elks Lodge were joined by Missouri Governor Mike Parson Friday afternoon as they dedicated a new Vietnam memorial. In the minutes before the ceremony began, there was a lot of discussion about just how many people would be there. But by the time the ceremony began, hundreds had gathered to show their appreciation to our nation’s veterans, and help the elks celebrate something they’ve been working towards for years.
“We culminated about nine years of hard work,” says Nevada Elks Lodge Exalted Ruler Phil Thompson.
Thompson says they are not done yet.
“The finishing touches will be the garrison flag that we’re putting up within the next couple of months.”
Despite that, Thompson says he could not have asked for more from Friday’s dedication ceremony, and he is hoping the memorial dedicated to Vietnam veterans sends a message to those who have served our nation.
“Elks take care of veterans. As long as there’s one veteran, they’ll always be taken care of, as long as the Elks are around.”
Thompson and the Nevada Elks were joined by dignitaries from the city and state, including Governor Parson.
“It’s just an honor to be here and to do a Vietnam veterans memorial in this town on a size like this, and you saw the crowd out here today, how much people really appreciate people that served our country, so it was really an honor to be here today, to be part of this ceremony,” Parson says.
Parson says moments like this are part of a much larger emphasis on seeing to the needs of our state’s veterans, including jobs.
“One, how do you encourage veterans to stay here that are serving the state, but really some of them that are out and have been discharged now, how do we give them the tools they need to be successful and give them the ability to get back into the workforce and have those good jobs, quality jobs that are out there.”
Thompson says there was some discussion about moving the ceremony indoors due to the cold, but after careful consideration the Elks decided there was no better place to be than right in front of the memorial.
“They didn’t get to come inside when they were doing their thing that we’re honoring them for, they had to stay out in battle no matter what the weather, we can endure thirty minutes,” Thompson says.
Before the dedication, Governor Parson took time to tour a Nevada technical school. The Missouri Welding Institute is a privately owned welding school, offering students training over the course of eighteen weeks. Governor Parson says he is hoping the state legislature will include more funding for facilities like this in next year’s budget, because of the role they will play in helping the state develop a solid workforce. Meanwhile, Nevada mayor Brian Leonard says any effort by the state to support the school will only benefit the city as a whole.
“Even though they don’t stay here, if some of them come through here and graduate and move on, or some of the locals stay here and take this course, they’re still learning a trade and going to be a productive member of society,” Leonard says.
“There’s such a job shortage in the trades, and obviously coming from my standpoint I’m looking at the welding side of things, but you’re looking at shortages of 400,000 and 500,000 welders, you know, in the next several years,” says Missouri Welding Institute owner Brian Hollands.
Parson took time to speak with the students Friday morning, telling them he believes they will be in high demand throughout the Show Me State over the next few years. He says while four year degrees are important, he wants students to know they are not the only path to a high dollar job in Missouri.