Guest opinion: Honoring our veterans
What began with eight to 10 men gathering and having a toast to themselves has now evolved into a Veterans Day Breakfast attended by 220 people.
“We would meet on November 10, the Marine Corp Birthday, to honor the Marines and Veterans Day,” said Marine Veteran Wayde Anderson. “That is how it all started.”
After being treated to a generous breakfast prepared by the staff at Snow Mountain Ranch, Army Specialist Erik Hetzler, a 2009 Middle Park High School graduate now serving in Afghanistan, led the group in the pledge of Allegiance.
We were inspired by prayers, poetry and heartfelt music by the Granby Elementary Minnesingers.
It was a patriotic and moving way to honor the Veterans of the Ground County area. The event was led by Army veteran Duane Dailey.
Being a daughter of a World War II Navy vet, my father, Jack Kohl, served in the South Pacific and now resides in the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home in Rifle, Colo. Every Veterans Day, I call him to say “Happy Veterans Day Dad!” and thank him for serving our country.
I was raised with an appreciation and understanding for all that is sacrificed, and for those who came home, and, unfortunately, those who didn’t.
Seeing those men and women in uniform, it appears to be an experience like no other, one that creates a brotherhood and sisterhood that lasts a lifetime. Some are quick to share their experiences, like my father, while others keep their stories close to their chests, like my friend’s father. “He only talks about it when asked,” my friend told me. His father is a WWII Air Force vet who served in Italy.
Attending the breakfast on Friday morning, I tried to shake hands with as many of the vets as possible.
When I walked to my car after the program ended, the short stories I heard and the faces I saw remained with me. The grown men I met that day had sometime in their lives left the security of their families and home at a very young age to face experiences that would change them from boys to men, change their view of the world forever and shape them as human beings that would last their entire lives.
Jim Childress told me how he hitchhiked to Granby with everything he owned in a paper sack, from West Texas at the age of 17, only to be drafted into the Army at the age of 21. The Korean War was just heating up. He said the bus picked him up right in front of Craig’s Cafe, now known as The Longbranch Restaurant, in Granby.
“Were you afraid, not knowing where you were going?” I asked. “A little nervous,” he said.
I talked to Vince Osborne who served our country for 20 years. In the Army, he served in Vietnam, Panama, and Saudi Arabia. The man sitting next to me at breakfast served in the Marines for two years, but never saw any action, he said.
“Doesn’t matter,” I told him. “You still served.”
Quoting Duane Dailey that day: “Some people think non-combat veterans are not veterans. That is not true. We are all veterans.” All deserve to be honored.
Our Country is losing World War II Veterans at a rate of 850 a day. There isn’t much time left to show our appreciation.
ABC news stated that since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2,333,972 military personnel have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or both. They also will need someone to listen to their stories and honor them.
My pastor once told his congregation that every Memorial Day, we needed to go stand over a soldier’s grave and give thanks for the lives sacrificed for our country. Our “country” is not a word, it is us, the people.
We the “people” in Grand County need to make sure that what started over a few Veterans gathering for a toast grows until the space at Snow Mountain Ranch is no longer large enough to hold the Veterans Breakfast.
We need to remember and recognize the men and women who have served us every Memorial Day and every Veterans Day.
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Editor’s note: The following letter to the community was submitted to the Sky-Hi News by Winter Park Mayor Nick Kutrumbos.