Gilpin County School honors all veterans who served our country
by Patty Unruh
Gilpin County School observed a stirring Veterans Day celebration on Thursday, November 10. The assembly was a moving tribute to these men and women who sacrificed that we might be free. About 25 veterans of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines were given the seats of honor.
Much of the program followed well-loved tradition, with the band providing musical inspiration, the presentation of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance, the singing of the National Anthem, and a patriotic medley by the high school choir. The high school cheerleaders saluted the veterans with a smartly choreographed routine. The perennial favorite, “Fifty Nifty United States,” was sung by the fifth graders, while the fourth grade class recited the poem, “Home of the Brave.”
School Superintendent David MacKenzie welcomed the guests and turned the program over to master of ceremonies Rachel Schmalz. She introduced two active duty military guests who spoke briefly.
Sgt. Landis of the U.S. Marine Corps stressed that the real purpose of Veterans Day is to honor those who have served.
U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Ferguson was spurred to military service by the terror attacks on 9/11. Recalling some scary moments of duty in Afghanistan, he thanked the vets for their bravery in battle.
Schmalz announced, “Let’s see how many audience members have been in the service or have a family member in the service. Clap one group at a time as I call you, and don’t stop until each group has been called.” The elementary students and families began clapping, joined by the middle school crowd and then the high school group, until the whole gymnasium resounded with applause.
Schmalz continued with an excerpt from a speech given by former President George W. Bush at Arlington National Cemetery on November 11, 2003: “Veterans of every era, every background, and every branch have certain things in common. And those shared commitments and experience formed bonds that last a lifetime. From the moment you repeated the oath to the day of your honorable discharge, your country came before all else. And whether you served abroad or at home, you have shared in the responsibility of maintaining the finest fighting force in the world.”
The veterans, most of whom were from the Viet Nam era, rose individually to relate their military experience. The men and women had served in the United States, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Some had been in for two years, some for twenty or more. Each person had a special comment to share.
“American service people are the smartest and best trained in the world.”
“It’s a bond you’ll never break.”
“Please take a moment and send up powerful thought beams to those who are serving.”
“Over 2,000 vets are killed by suicide every year. Veterans need your support.”
“I don’t think many of you have what it takes to be a Marine or a Navy SEAL, especially in pot-grown Colorado. Join and see if you’ve got the guts.”
“If we lost our lives doing it, so be it. We’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
“We never got a reception like this when we came home from Viet Nam. This makes up for it.”
The Viet Nam veterans were specially recognized by Cheryl Lydyard, Kathleen Schrader, and Kay Lorenz of the Mountain Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Lydyard expressed, “Today we say thanks to this fine group that served in Viet Nam. The public did not treat them well when they came home. Fifty years later, we want to present them with these certificates of appreciation. We join a grateful nation to honor the valor and sacrifice you made.”
The audience rose as one to give the men a long overdue and well deserved ovation.
A moment of silence was observed for those who didn’t make it back, followed by the solemn trumpet tones of “Taps.”
Staff Sgt. Matthew S. McCracken, U.S. Army, delivered the keynote address. As a high school student, McCracken was undecided about what to do with his life. Then 9/11 happened. “I didn’t want it to happen again. I saw a recruiter the next day.”
He advised young people, “Plan to work, and work to plan.” To veterans, he stated, “People want to know why vets are so close. It’s a simple understanding of shared hardship. From Normandy to Iraq, we take solace in our brotherhood. Our strength comes from doing things we thought we could never do. We serve the greatest country in the world.”
Viet Nam Veterans
This list was provided by the DAR:
John Blake (Army), Kenton Bundy (Army), Denis Darby (Army), Teo Dominguez (Army), Richard Dominguez (deceased), Kenneth Goodlet (Navy), Jack Hidahl (Navy), James K. Hutchison (USMC), Michael Ikeler (Army), Gary Kragenbrink (USAF), Richard Lewis (USAF S/B USMC), Perry Pearce (USAF), Jessie Peterson (Army), John Revelle (Army), John Rittenhouse (USAF), Howard Roche (Army), Robert K. Sawyer (USAF), Webster H. Sill III (USMC), Rick Snyder (branch unavailable), Michael Trachbrodt (Army), Lewis Wagner (USAF), Rick Winfrey (branch unavailable).