Student-soldiers find meaning in holiday

Political science student Jacob Aldean will head north with some fellow Marines to celebrate Veterans Day as a veteran for the first time.

“We’re driving our Humvees to a school up in the Iron Range,” he said.

Aldean, a sergeant in the Fort Snelling Military Police Company, and 10 Marines will talk with middle school students in Aurora, Minn., about the soldiers’ experiences in Iraq.

Aldean is one of a handful of University students celebrating their first Veterans Day as veterans.

University senior Tim Carson, who returned from Kuwait on Sept. 26, said he is going to spend his Veterans Day relaxing and watching movies.

Jon Gill, a student and military policeman who spent eight months in Kuwait and Iraq, said he will not be doing much to celebrate Veterans Day.

Gill said he has never celebrated Veterans Day before and does not know what he might do.

“Obviously, I’ve never been a veteran before,” Gill said.

Elsewhere, these students are among many who celebrate Veterans Day in various ways.

The Minnesota Veterans Home will host a program featuring the American Legion Post 435 Band and guest speaker Col. Rod Gerdes of the Marine Corps Reserve.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty; U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn.; U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.; and U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., plan to attend, according to a Veterans Home press release.

“It’s a wonderful celebration of the sacrifices our military has made for the freedom for all of us,” said Dee Oliver, director of public affairs for the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis. Oliver said organizers expect between 500 and 700 people to attend the event.

The Minnesota Society of Arboriculture will host a tree-pruning service project at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center at 9 a.m. today. Companies belonging to the Minnesota Society of Arboriculture will send 15 to 20 tree-trimmers to help prune and maintain the trees. The public is invited to help with brush dragging and other jobs, spokesman Jim Ostvig said.