Women of the military who attended the Military Ball gathered for a group photo. They are, seated: Stacey Glaunert, Marine Corps and Army; Amanda England, Army; Josephine Strube, Army; and Kay Swenson, Army; and standing are: Anne Doering, Army; Michelle Miller, Army; June Sheets, Navy; Sharon Ropes, Navy; Teresa Ash, Army; Sharon Rohrer, Army; Vicky Sheldon Kline, Army; and Terese Housker, Navy.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->SGH/Buxengard
Women of the military who attended the Military Ball gathered for a group photo. They are, seated: Stacey Glaunert, Marine Corps and Army; Amanda England, Army; Josephine Strube, Army; and Kay Swenson, Army; and standing are: Anne Doering, Army; Michelle Miller, Army; June Sheets, Navy; Sharon Ropes, Navy; Teresa Ash, Army; Sharon Rohrer, Army; Vicky Sheldon Kline, Army; and Terese Housker, Navy.

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The ninth annual Military Ball on April 20 was again a success with record attendance of 236, an increase of 13 from last year's event. This year's event honored "Women of the Military".

Held at the Fest Building in Spring Grove, those attending encompassed a wide range of the tri-state area.

Guest speaker was Michelle Miller of La Crescent, who retired from the Army in 2001, having spent half of her military career enlisted and the other half commissioned.

She is currently a family medicine physician assistant with the Gundersen Lutheran clinics in Harmony, Houston, La Crescent and Spring Grove.

Originally from La Crosse, Wis., Miller joined the Army the summer between her junior and senior years of high school at the age of 17.

Her first three years of service were as a combat medic and later a practical nurse.

In 1990, she applied to the army Physician Assistant (PA) program, but had to attend Warrant Officer School prior to being allowed to start PA school.

Miller was the distinguished honor graduate from WOC School in a class of 1963, one of three females.

"Considering the official transition of women into combat MOS is scheduled to take place on the 15th of May, women's role in the military couldn't have been a more appropriate theme for your military ball," she stated in opening remarks.

"There is a lot of history in numbers and statistics, but before you can appreciate the true value of those numbers you have to be able to appreciate the sacrifices, determination, motivation and challenges it took to give those numbers faces," Miller stated.

"The best way for anyone to appreciate the impact women have had, and continue to have on the military mission, would be to be able to spend a day in their life while they were doing just that," Miller remarked.

She has been deployed to the field many times as the only female in support of all male combat arms battalions.

"There are no male and female bathrooms so you learn to use a tree, bush or berm. When you're the only female, where to sleep and shower are also questions people ask about."

"You all are equal," she pointed out adding, "They are your right hand and you must have trust in them.

"For women to succeed in the military, you have to be able to exceed the standard. Recognition comes with being able to separate yourself from the whole.

"In the military, you learn quickly that nobody can take care of you better than you can take care of yourself. Considering a pay raise in the military is based on promotion - every day is a competition."

Some statistics include 14.6 percent of the 1.4 million active-duty service members are women. Of the 280,000 women deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, more than 150 women have been killed and 800 wounded due to action. In 2009, 8 percent of veterans were female and that number is expected to rise 15 percent by 2035.

"I spent half of my career enlisted and the other commissioned. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't change a thing. Being able to appreciate the grass on both sides of the fence gave me a greater appreciation for the contribution that everyone makes."

In conclusion she noted that Mary Walker was the first American woman to be a military doctor, a prisoner of war, a Union spy and a Medal of Honor recipient. When she died alone at 87 wearing her Medal of Honor, the words she left us with were: "Let the generations know that women in uniform also guaranteed their freedom."

Other speakers talk of service

Veterans Service officers Rob Gross for Houston County and Jason Marquardt for Fillmore County spoke briefly.

"We create a seamless transition when members of the military return from deployments. It's very rewarding to help," Gross relayed about their work.

"Often our job is filled with frustrations. We're up against the system that is maybe shut down, lost funding or no funds remain."

Marquardt announced that construction will begin in August or September to build a veterans cemetery in Fillmore County.

During her tenure as senator, Sharon Ropes was instrumental in initiating the senate bill for the cemetery.

Bell of Honor new this year

The Bell of Honor from Rochester was displayed outside the entrance during the ball. The 103-year-old bell weighs 3,080 lbs. and is used to show respect and honor for fallen heroes including active military, veterans, police, firefighters and EMS who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

The meaning of the seven bell tolls is to honor those who have "responded", "served", "protected", "defended", "sacrificed", "suffered" or "died".

In the opening ceremony for the ball, the presentation of colors was organized by John Geiwitz of Houston.

Those in the color guard included riflemen Maynard LeFleur of Rushford and Jason Marquardt of Mabel; U.S. flag bearers Allen Buxengard of La Crescent and Cory Buxengard of Muskego, Wis., POW-MIA flag by Paul Wheaton of Houston; and the service flags: Army - Randy Denstad of Caledonia, Marine - Earl Roberts of Mindoro, Wis., Navy - Todd James of Rushford, Coast Guard - Gary Germanson (Navy) of La Crosse, Wis., and Air Force - Brad Buege of Houston.

Special Export quartet sang "The National Anthem" and "God Bless America".

Emcee for the evening was Sharon Erickson Ropes, a registered nurse who served in the Navy Nurse Corps for five years. During her tenure as state senator representing Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties at St. Paul, she worked tirelessly for Minnesota veterans.

Gene Wilder of LeRoy and Paul Wheaton of Houston led the POW-MIA ceremony "Remember".

Tribute was paid to Sgt. Major Robert L. McCurdy, retired Marine from La Crescent, who passed away July 14, 2012, at the age of 82. While serving in the military he was a prisoner of war in Korea for 18 months.

Last call of vets in the county

At the final salute ceremony, Richard Snow of Houston read the roll call honoring the 32 veterans of Houston County who answered their last call in the last calendar year.

Cory Buxengard of Muskego, Wis., rang the bell twice after each name. After the last name, The Bell of Honor was tolled seven times.

Trumpet players from Cheers Big Band provided a military salute of echoed taps, followed by Special Export singing "The Lord's Prayer".

Special recognitions of attendees

The oldest and youngest women of the military in attendance at the ball were honored with a cased U.S. flag. Josephine Strube, age 92, of Jackson, Minn., was a Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps, serving during World War II. Teresa (Crossman) Ash, 47,, of Minneapolis served in the Army.

Also, the oldest veteran (male or female) in attendance at the ball received a cased flag. Orville Treangen, 96 of Spring Grove, was a PFC in the Army Infantry, serving from 1941 to 1945.

After the meal and program the flags were retired, and Cheers Big Band from the La Crosse area played music for dancing and listening pleasure. The band is sponsored by Craig and Deborah Ellestad in memory of Mervin and Norma Ellestad.

Next year's date announced

Next year's ball is scheduled for Saturday, April 12, 2014, at the Fest Building in Spring Grove.

The event is planned and carried out by a small committee of volunteers, who welcome more people to come aboard to help with this growing event. Members appreciate everyone who helps in any way to make the ball the special event that it is.

If interested in helping, call (507) 498-3461, (507) 206-6701 or email houstonmilitaryball@yahoo.com.