Veterans Day, for Steve Hennes of Sartell, is the “most meaningful holiday of the year.”
It’s a time to gather with other veterans and to honor all those who served their country, including those who died and those who were wounded.
Every year, on Veterans Day, Hennes has breakfast with fellow veterans – usually about a dozen of them. Though the names and faces sometimes change year to year, the tradition remains the same – a good-hearted fellowship over breakfast at local restaurants.
Hennes himself is a veteran, having served in Vietnam in 1972-73 as a U.S. Army fireman.
This year, Hennes’ breakfast companions included three Vietnamese veterans who moved to the St. Cloud area years ago – Henry Le, former major Diem Vo and former lieutenant Hoa Nguyen, who escaped Vietnam on a boat after serving 10 years in prison after the North Vietnamese took over South Vietnam. Hennes’ other guests were former St. Cloud Mayor Al Loehr, a World War II veteran; Tom Holthaus of Sauk Rapids, former director of the Veterans Administration Hospital and U.S. Army veteran; Phil Ringstrom of Sartell, who just recently retired from the U.S. Navy; Johnny McCray of St. Cloud, former physical therapist at the VA Hospital; Les Henson of Waite Park, a U.S. Navy veteran; Jim Berg of St. Cloud, a U.S. Army veteran; and Fred Shermock of St. Cloud, a veterans’ advocate whose brother served in Vietnam.
Those veterans gathered at Perkins for breakfast. It was the 12th year of Hennes’ “Veterans Breakfast.” The tradition began years ago when Hennes decided to take his late father-in-law, Cotton Tholen, to breakfast in Tholen’s and Hennes’ home town of Little Falls. Cotton’s wife, Florence, always told Hennes how much Cotton appreciated that special kindness of Hennes taking him for breakfast on Veterans Day. That is when Hennes chose to make it a tradition.
“We had a good time at Perkins,” Hennes said. “We shared a few laughs and introduced ourselves. Each year, there’s usually one or two new veterans.”
Hennes and the other veterans also attended the annual Veterans Parade at the VA.
“It’s good to see veterans honored, like the way they did at the Vikings game recently,” Hennes said. “Thank you, veterans.”