The west parking lot of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum was temporarily turned into the Friday night event location for the Marshall County Historical Society’s May program, “A Tribute to Marshall County Veterans.” People sat in their camping chairs and stood attentively listening to the loudspeakers.
The Historical Society has partnered with the Marshalltown Central Business District, Marshall VA County Office, and the American Legion Riders Post Number 46 to bring this program to the community. Speakers from each organization spoke a few words and Matt Gerstandt, owner of Black Tire Bike Company, spoke about his experiences in the United States Navy.
To kick off the program, Historical Society Administrator Michelle Roseburrough Halverson welcomed all participants before handing over to Deb Millizer, Executive Director of the MCBD.
Millizer spoke briefly about the veterans banner project she and Marshall County VA Director Kevin Huseboe have been working on since last October, with 124 sponsored banners honoring people in Marshall County who served in the military hanging. to the streetlights of the city.
Millizer explained how the project got started and she had tears in her eyes as she spoke about what it meant to her and Marshall County veterans.
“When I drive downtown, when I cross the overpass, when I look up at all these banners, I see people and all their sacrifices, and I remember the stories that were told to me,” said Miller. “I am humbled and honored to have been part of the process so that the rest of the community and the rest of the county can understand some of their sacrifices. It means so much to me and my board to have been a part of it, and to Kevin Huseboe.
After Millizer finished speaking, she explained that with every banner purchased, $25 was set aside to be donated to a cause chosen by the VA. At Huseboe’s request, Millizer presented the check to American Legion Riders Post 46 to be used for the Veterans Appreciation Food Drive that was also being held in the Veterans Coliseum parking lot Friday night.
Huseboe echoed Millizer’s sentiments regarding the banner project.
“It was just a great honor to do this project and (to see) the outpouring of the community,” he said. “We’ve had an outpouring of people calling and (who are) very grateful for what’s happening. It’s just an honor, and we love what we do.
Gerstandt, who spoke next, enlisted in the Navy in 2008 and went into aircraft maintenance. After training, he became an avionics technician (AT) assigned to work on the EA-6B Prowler, an aircraft specializing in electronic warfare.
It did not carry ammunition, but instead kept radars and shutters that could jam cell service and anything else that might interfere with ground troop operations.
While based on Whitney Island, Washington, Gerstandt said he found good success in the Navy and really enjoyed it. Eventually in 2010 the EA-6B was retired and an F18 variant called the EA-18G Growler was introduced. Gerstandt said it turned into “quite an adventure” and he was more educated as a result.
In early 2011, Gerstandt was deployed to Al Asad, Iraq, for a year before returning in early 2012.
“It was interesting. Al Asad was a pretty safe base. We spent a lot of time in Qatar, a lot of desserts and a lot of sand,” Gerstandt said.
In 2010, former Black Tire Bike Company owner Mike Miltenberger offered to sell the store to Gerstandt and his wife. Gerstandt was still debating whether or not he was going to re-enlist in the Navy, but the idea of buying the bike shop was still on their minds.
“After a long year in Iraq, it was about time to deploy it, so we decided to buy it,” Gerstandt said. “On May 7, 2012, we took over the bike shop, so there was only about a month’s difference between the service and being self-employed. So basically, assuming you were tells you what to do, how to do it and where to do it, all you have to do is wake up on your own and get to work.
Gerstandt said his favorite thing about the military was the people he met along the way.
“People are what makes it. You’re going to get pressure from the top, but you know, you have instant friends, you do. You have instant friends no matter what you do or who you are,” he said.
Finally, community member Nicki Johnson spoke briefly about the Veteran Appreciation Food Drive she hosted in partnership with the American Legion Riders Post 46. She and Post 46 collaborated on their first drive of food last fall and helped feed 150 veterans and their families.
Non-perishable food items, toiletries and hygiene products and paper goods were all accepted Friday night during the tribute in hopes of raising enough food and supplies to help 200 veteran households by Memorial Day.
To help collect, email [email protected] to arrange for collection.