Eagle students salute local vets | VailDaily.com

Eagle students salute local vets

Kathy Heicher
Kathy Heicher/Enterprise

EAGLE – The kids at Eagle Valley Elementary school know all about patriotism.When the veterans of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post arrived at the school on Monday, the kids greeted them outside by waving their carefully crayoned paper flags.And that was just the beginning of the honors.Following a brief reception in a classroom, the veterans were led by student guides to the lunchroom stage for a special Veteran’s Day ceremony hosted by the Parent Teacher Organization. The room was filled with a sea of flag-waving children dressed in red, white, and blue. The brightly garbed kids were a rapt audience as local veterans shared their stories.The veterans attending included:

• Lt. Col. Buddy Sims, a former bomber pilot who served in Vietnam; and current leader of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter.• Candy Cordova of Minturn, who served with the Army artillery in World War II. During that war, Cordova served in Sicily, England, France, Belgium and Holland. He was among the troops who landed at Omaha Beach and helped to liberate Germany. Cordova was awarded seven battle stars, and was never wounded in the war.• Kenneth Gardner, who served with the Navy for three years in the South Pacific during World War II. Gardener was visiting from Indiana. He was accompanied by his granddaughter, Eagle Valley Elementary school student Kenna Kurronen.• Gary Thornton, a Coast Guard Academy graduate who had a 30-year Navy career, including a year in Vietnam. He is a Beaver Creek ski instructor.• Mike Mathias, a Vail resident and former green beret who served in Vietnam.• Gerry Dooher, a doctor and former Navy man who served in Vietnam.• Patricia Hammon, a former Army nurse who served in Vietnam.• Leonard Sinclair of Gypsum, who grew up in Minturn, and served on a Navy submarine. Sinclair completed three tours in Vietnam.

• Lyn Morgan , a former Marine platoon commander who served in Vietnam.• Chris Bernard. A 28-year Navy veteran who served on submarines and in Vietnam. He is now a ski instructor at Beaver Creek.• Charles Ridgway, Brush Creek rancher. Ridgway was a demolition expert with the Marines in Vietnam.The students serenaded the veterans with a spirited rendition of “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”Then it was time for questions, and the kids politely posed the sort of queries that are on the minds of elementary school students.Where did the veterans sleep while in the service? Answers varied from descriptions of too-small bunks in submarines to “in the jungle,” in Quonset huts, and in barracks. What did the soldiers eat? C-rations (hot and cold), K-rations, cafeteria food, whatever they could carry on their backs.Then the more serious questions: Were you scared to fight?

“Of course you are. But you are trained to do that. It is normal for everyone to be afraid when there is danger involved,” Mathias said.Did the veterans know anybody that died?That drew a somber response from the vets. “Yes, we all knew people who died. And that is very difficult for all of us,” Hammon said.The questions were followed by a reading of patriotic essays by students Katy Parker, Matt Genelin, Cal Erickson, Amie Hixon and Ryan Wood.The veterans graciously received a donation from the Parent Teacher Organization, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in turn donated two flags and two flag stand to the school.The assembly ended with poignant playing of “Taps” in the memory of fallen Eagle County soldiers John Vaughan and Evenor Herrera.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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