The Veterans Home celebrated their annual pheasant dinner Friday, Dec. 6 and were treated to a special performance by members of the M State band. Six band members, led by band director Jim Iverson, performed a number of holiday favorites as veterans, volunteers and donors enjoyed their lunch.
“I used to teach at the high school and, for a lot of years when I was there, at Christmastime I would usually organize a Christmas group and take them out and we would always come to the Veterans Home. Now that I’m at the college, I’ve reconnected with (Deanna Mounts, public affairs for the Veterans Home) and we made this work,” says Iverson. He joined the group in playing several holiday melodies during their informal concert, adding the “Armed Forces Medley” as a finale.
The pheasant dinner brought together a number of special events: the dinner itself, the kick off to the holiday season and the 78th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. The pheasant dinner was started in 1941 by the Star Tribune after the Minneapolis Veterans Home sent them describing the jealousy they felt watching hunters bring home pheasants during hunting season and wondering how they could enjoy the missed meal when they were unable to hunt. Thus, the Pheasant Dinner program was started. “They wanted hospitalized veterans who couldn’t hunt to have pheasant, and it was really important to them,” says Mounts. “Now, it’s over 4,000 pheasants that they purchase for all five veterans homes.” Hunted pheasants were used in the first few decades of the program, but a declining pheasant population means pheasants are now purchased from game farms.
Pearl Harbor was remembered by a speech from resident Gary Wigdahl. Red balloons were also attached to the chairs of the home’s 11 World War II veterans and Iverson’s inclusion of the “Armed Forces Medley” was in honor of the anniversary. “At the end, we’ve got an ‘Armed Forces Medley.’ We’re going to acknowledge that tomorrow is the 78th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, so we’ll honor our veterans and if they’re able to stand during their military song, or raise their hand, just to honor them,” he says. “It’s always so cool, they’re always so proud when they hear their song from their brand of the military.”
The band members who made it to the Veterans Home include Jacob Woody on trumpet, Ronald Becker on saxophone, Lillian Anderson on bass clarinet, Ben Munsterman on French horn, Andrew Danielson on tenor sax and Brianna Fischer on baritone sax. While attending was a part of their band class, Iverson was grateful that they came and said he didn’t have to “twist any arms” to get them to come. “They all want to be here and they think this is pretty special, too, to be able to share this experience with all these vets and the family members that are here, too,” he says.
The veterans and staff of the Veterans Home were happy to see them, too. “We are so blessed, M State and the high school have come here periodically over the years to entertain for us, so we can see quite a few of the youth from our community and their support of veterans,” said Mounts.