Veterans Day speaker shares memories of service

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News
The end of the Veteran's Day ceremony for 2021.

On the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, as is the tradition, Veterans, students, and community members gathered at the Montevideo High School for a program in honor of Veterans Day. This year’s speaker was Pam Gregor, a nurse at the Montevideo VA. Gregor served in the Marine Corps on active duty in 1984, then joined the inactive reserves from 1988 to 1992. She was the first woman on a nuclear weapons loading team on a Marine Corps Air Base. She joined the Minnesota National Guard from 2006 to 2013 and is a combat veteran who deployed to Iraq from 2007 to 2008. Gregor is a lifetime member of the VFW Posts in Minneota and Taunton where she was the first female Commander of that Post from 2018 to 2020. She is also a member of the Legion Post in Minneota. Gregor spoke about her time in the military, as well as her experience as a mother of four children who also serve. 

A table was set in honor of fallen, missing, or imprisoned military service members.

“I was a recruit from November 2, 1984, to January 10, 1985. On January 11th, I officially became a Marine. A title I proudly carry today. If you notice there are a few minor holidays between those dates. This is one thing you sacrifice. Being with loved ones on special days. On Christmas Eve we were allowed a five-minute phone call home and if your family wasn’t home like mine wasn’t, you didn’t talk to anybody,” she recalled. “I remembered how proud I was for my parents to see me in my uniform for graduation and being able to tell them they would be sitting in the VIP section with the Base General as I was graduating with honors. I did not get to do this with three of my children, because when they were graduating Basic Training I was serving elsewhere because in January 2006 I took on my second title of Soldier as I had joined the Minnesota Army National Guard.”

Gregor spoke about the sacrifices Soldiers make while deployed - from sitting with a fellow Soldier unable to return home for his grandmother’s funeral, to another heartbroken over missing the birth of his first child. She also spoke about missing time with her children as one of them struggled with depression while she was 5,681 miles away from home. “A favorite memory is a day I was with all of my children tailgating at a Vikings game. We had a blast. Vikings lost but we had a blast. A few days later I sent Chris to Kuwait and Corey to Afghanistan. Our Christmas card had a photo of all of us at the game with the line Merry Christmas from Kuwait, Minnesota, and Afghanistan,” she says. 

This year's Veteran's Day program speaker was Pam Gregor.

While her children were serving, Gregor recalls a moment when she read a headline about a soldier killed on a mission in Afghanistan. “I had not heard from Corey in a week and I could not breathe. My training mission for the day was to put my medics through trauma lines giving them real patients with simulated injuries they would have to treat. But all I could see was my son laying dead on a lonely road and I could not save him. It was another three days before I heard from him and I fell to my knees and thanked God,” she said. These moments, Gregor said, are why it’s important to have others around who have shared the same experiences. “On days like this is when you need to be able to look at the person next to you and know they understand. When you hear the phrase a band of brothers or the sisterhood it is the camaraderie known as brother and sister in arms. We go through the same training, go through the same MOS’s, carry a weapon like it’s a piece of clothing, experience loneliness, and are human,” she said. “Being called to service in the military is not something taken lightly. Physical casualties of war can be easily identified but those with mental wounds suffer in the dark. Do not try to walk this dark road alone. True bravery is asking for help.” 

The Montevideo High School Choir sang When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

If you or someone you know is a Veteran in crisis, or concerned about one, the Veteran’s Crisis line is available 24/7 at  1-800-273-8255 or by texting 838255.

The High School band performed America the Beautiful at the Veteran's Day program.