You could feel the gymnasium filling with pride as seven Osakis High School seniors were highlighted at a program Monday, May 3.
The program honored Carson Bergquist, Anthony Leighton, Grace Oeltjen, Jace Twardowski, Jacob Uhl, Duncan Vandergon and Anna Wolf. All seven of them will not only be graduating this spring, but they're now also members of the Minnesota Army National Guard.
According to Osakis Superintendent Randy Bergquist, who also happens to be Carson Bergquist’s father, the seven students who have joined the Army National Guard make up roughly 10% of this year’s graduating class.
“This is probably a record for schools across Minnesota,” said Bergquist, who noted that there was a school in Moorhead with 12 seniors who joined the Army National Guard, but he said they have a much larger senior class.
To have 10% of the class enlist in the same branch of the military was so special that the school put together the program Monday morning in their honor. Representatives from the school board attended, along with family members of the students, Osakis VFW veterans as well as other Army National Guardsmen, including the recruiter, SSG Lance Meyer and Brigadier General Lowell Kruse. Kruse, who serves as the Assistant Adjutant General, is the senior commander of Camp Ripley Training Center in Little Falls.
"We’ll take good care of them for you.”
— Brigadier General Lowell Kruse, Minnesota Army National Guard
During the program, Kruse presented each student with a challenge coin, which he said were being presented as examples of respect and excellence.
“This is my sign of respect to you,” he told the students. “Carry it with you. I’m proud to be a part of this and I am super proud to welcome you to the National Guard.”
He also told the students to take pride in the fact that they are now soldiers. He said a small percentage of people qualify and to remember that the chance they have is important.
He also spoke to the parents and family members who were present, telling them thank you for allowing the students to join the military.
“We’ll take good care of them for you,” he said
Kruse added that Meyer is the number one recruiter for Minnesota. He thanked him for his service and also presented him with a challenge coin.
Osakis High School Principal Brad Hoffarth told the students how proud he was of them and thanked them for their service.
Alan Oeltjen, father of Grace Oeltjen, said he was “pretty proud” of his daughter and that after doing a 180-degree turn, this seemed like the right career path for her.
Grace Oeltjen, who noted that her grandpa and great uncles served in the military, said she joined the National Guard because of all the benefits.
“I wanted to be a part of something bigger and part of a team,” said Grace, who joined the Minnesota National Guard on March 19.
Here’s a look at why the other students decided to become a part of the Minnesota Army National Guard and what date they joined:
Carson Bergquist, who joined on Oct. 28, 2019, said he wanted to pursue a path in finance and business and that by joining the military, he is able to get his tuition paid for, along with many other benefits. His grandpa was also in the Army, he said.
Anthony Leighton joined on Feb. 5. He wanted to become part of the guard for college benefits and experience, along with developing military skills that he can use in the future outside of the military.
Jace Twardowski joined the Army National Guard on Dec. 12, 2019, because it was something he knew he would regret not doing later in life. He also said the benefits are helpful when starting an adult life.
Jacob Uhl joined on Dec. 12, 2019 because he wanted to serve his country and give back some of what his country has given him, he said. He also said he joined for the educational and physical fitness benefits.
Duncan Vandergon joined on Feb. 19 because he has a long line of military service in his family and because he wants to serve his country.
Anna Wolf, who joined on March 19, said the reason she joined was because she wanted to challenge herself. She also said she has several family members in the military so it was a really easy decision to make.
“I’m also excited to have my college paid for,” she said.