“The true measure of life is not happiness, it’s duty or service.”

These words were spoken by Captain Brandon Reese of the United States Marine Corps at Alexandria Area High School during a Veterans Day service held in the Performing Arts Center on Monday, Nov. 11.

The program included a posting of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and various patriotic sing-alongs. Each branch of the armed forces was honored with their respective songs. Audience members sang as veterans from each branch stood.

Reese gave the Veterans Day address.

In high school, life was about him, Reese said. He was to follow his dreams, attend college and get a great job. So, he did that. Reese worked for a congressman directly after receiving his undergraduate degree, got a law degree and started working at a law firm. But he felt something was missing.

It was service and sacrifice, he said.

“Your life can be about you, but take my word for it, that is a life unfulfilled, a life which will be full of regret,” Reese said, addressing the high school students in the room.

He was stationed in California from 2014-2018, serving as a legal assistance attorney, tax center officer and defense counsel. He currently works as the executive officer for recruiting in the Twin Cities.

Reese was inspired by young high school students who wanted to serve, who in turn inspired Reese to join the military.

He spoke of sacrifices people who enlist encounter, including sacrificing the right to be an irresponsible young adult, making mistakes and sacrificing some freedom of speech.

“I thought it was pretty special that a young man or woman had the maturity, the willingness to sacrifice that type of stuff, because when I was in their shoes, I did not.”

He addressed the high school students, telling them not to take the country or the freedoms we have for granted. “Our peace and prosperity are not guaranteed,” Reese said.

This country needs all the services of the Armed Forces, he said, thanking all the veterans in the room, saying the U.S. is truly in debt to them.

John Christopherson played “Taps” and Pastor Mike Bartolomeo provided a remembrance prayer. Prisoners of war and missing in action veterans were honored.

At the end of the program, Mayor Sara Carlson spoke about the Veterans Memorial Park on Broadway Street. She called it a labor of love for the veterans. It will be completed next year and unveiled on July 4. It is supposed to be the largest veterans memorial in Minnesota.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” she said. “It’s long overdue; it has been many years in the making and we are so proud that we could see it start to unfold this year.”