ST. CLOUD - Area veterans, their families, elected officials and the community gathered for an annual program honoring those who have served.

The Veterans Day Commemoration event, coordinated by the St. Cloud Metropolitan Veterans Council, or METROVETS, was held Monday in the St. Cloud VA Health Care System auditorium.

It's the result of a lot of collaboration, says METROVETS officer Tom Fernlund. Fernlund says the 52-year-old consortium of servicemen and women is busy; they also plan St. Cloud's Memorial Day parade, a dinner for Korean War veterans and the Veterans Day parade, to name a few.

It helps each service organization to work together cohesively, so we're not going in all different directions. Everyone has a say in what they'd like to see in the ceremony. It helps keep it consistent. We also work hand-in-hand with the VA. We want to make sure all veterans feel included.

Fernlund, who also belongs to Waite Park American Legion 428, says the goal is to make sure every veteran feels heard and represented. He spent over 10 years in the military, and is grateful he didn't experience lingering physical or psychological effects following his service. His uncle, a WWII veteran, was not as fortunate.

I was too young to really understand this, but in those days, (veterans) weren't treated well. They didn't recognize the problems they had. Nowadays, the VA system is a lot better. A system like this would have helped him. So, myself being in the service and seeing how things happen, I always want other veterans to be treated well.

The program featured performances by the North Jr. High School choir and addresses by Brent Thelen, St. Cloud VA Director, and Jayson Hackett of the Minnesota National Guard.