Celebrating local veterans

vet orange shirt veteranBarbara Lawlor, Gilpin County. About 40 veterans listened to the Gilpin County Elementary School thank them over and over again for serving their country. The annual Veteran’s Day Celebration took place on Monday morning, November 10, the day before Veteran’s Day. It was a time to let the area veterans give their name, rank ,and war or wars, they fought in. Some of them had to hold back tears as memories washed over them.

A medley of patriotic music played by the Gilpin Middle School band greeted the veterans as they found their seats up front in the gymnasium. The colors were presented by the West High School R.O.T.C., an all-female color guard who carried the American and Colorado flags to the podium. They included: Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Matice Bowens, Cadet First Lieutenant Diana Gutierrez, Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Estrella Mata and Cadet Command Sergeant Major Brandy Chavez. The POW/MIA flag was then placed on an empty chair.

After the flags were in place, a group of elementary school students wearing their own kinds of uniforms, those of Girl Scout Troop 4038 and Cub Scout Pack 251, led the veterans, students, and staff in the Pledge of Allegiance. This was followed by sophomore Lindsay James singing the national anthem.

Senior students Eric Castillo, Allysa Chareunsouk ,and Stephanie Siegrist introduced the speakers and performers with poise and confidence.

Representatives of the Daughters of the American Revolution Kay Lorenz and Kathleen Shrader said they have a mission of finding all the veterans’ grave markers in the 12 Gilpin County cemeteries and making a plaque to include all of their names. The DAR project to honor all of the Gilpin County veterans began when the women began documenting known veterans, which was last done in 1995. “We are photographing every gravestone that could be a veteran,” says Lorenz. “We haven’t chosen which cemetery will have the plaque yet, but the veterans said they will be grateful for the recognition.”

vet key speaker

The DAR also sends formal dresses to the Wounded Warrior’s Ball in San Diego and they deliver toys to the Veteran’s Hospital

Jimmy Stewart of the Elks Club presented a slide show of his work in helping bring disabled veterans to Steamboat Springs to enjoy a weekend of Olympic snowsports. He and his wife Colleen greet the veterans as they are flown in from all over the country.

And then it was the veterans’ turn. The microphone was passed around. Roy Blake, Ht1 of the Marines and the Army, last served in Iraq. He said he has been in 32 countries and, “I am convinced that America has the finest troops in the world. We are so blessed and honored to serve our country.”

Dick Lewis, Sgt. USMC, said, “It is our duty as citizens to do our best so our country stays the land of the free.”

Tomas Dominquez, the commander of Central City’s American Legion for the past 25 years, announced that in the past year, an American MIA for 63 years, was found and his remains identified. Dominquez, a marine, is one of the founders responsible for the Gilpin County Veteran’s Memorial at the recreation center.

After the veterans spoke, everyone was asked to stand and observe a moment of silence while eighth graders Jake Duncan and Chase Besiallon, on opposite sides of the gym played taps, a musical tribute to those who gave their lives in service.

The mood changed when Ms. Huxley’s fourth grade class bounced out onto the gym and boisterously recited “Remember Veterans.”

Fifth grade students then performed the traditional “Fifty Nifty United States,” a song listing all of the states in alphabetical order, an earworm if ever there was one.

James Ysebaert, Chief Warrant Officer 3, was the key speaker. A 33-year veteran, Ysebaert  remembers small things about the service that veterans all over share. Being awakened  at “0 dark 30” for no apparent reason. Cooks with bad attitudes. Waiting on a tarmac for three hours wearing paratroop harnesses. Being ordered to pick up pine cones to make the forest nicer. K-rations, C-rations and MREs.

He said that Jimmy Hendrix was not a good soldier and that Chuck Norris was in the Air Force. He noted that 44 men were given the Medal of Honor; one of them, John Swanson, from Boulder. He talked of a 25-year-old Heritage High School graduate who earned the Navy cross in 2005 for continuing the fight on terrorism while wounded. He died during that battle.

After his speech, the flags were retired and the entire school led by the student emcees shouted a loud “Thank You, Veterans.”

And then it was time for cake and conversation.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.