Kids honor veterans with songs
VAIL – At the tender age of 5, the kindergartners at Red Sandstone Elementary School in Vail weren’t quite sure what to make of the uniformed men and woman on stage Friday. But in the selfless way of children, they honored the veterans with their songs nonetheless. After the “Star Spangled Banner,” by third-grader Megan Rossman, the whole school launched into “This Land is Your Land” and other songs.”We are thankful for the U.S.A.,” they belted out, complete with a few dance moves. The veterans beamed down at the little ones, clearly moved by their efforts. As the veterans visited area schools last week in observance of Veterans Day, Red Sandstone holds a special place of honor as the first school in Eagle County to host a Veterans Day celebration, said Red Sandstone teaching assistant and attendance secretary Debra Herner. Former Red Sandstone teacher Carol Thalman, who still works for Eagle County Schools, founded the school’s Veterans Day gathering 20 years ago, in part to honor her two nephews who were in the military, Herner said.
“When she left, she dumped the file in my lap and said, ‘Keep it going,'” Herner said. “So we’ve kept it going.”Fame from FormosaPrincipal Nancy Ricci broke down Veterans Day for the children, comparing it to something all kids are familiar with – birthdays. “On your birthday, we celebrate you, but Veterans Day is a day that we honor a lot of people,” Ricci said. “We honor them for what they do to keep us safe.”Ricci began introducing the veterans who had gathered at the school, but unable to read Stuart “Boot” Gordon’s cramped script, Ricci turned the microphone over to the Army Air Force and U.S. Air Force veteran.
Gordon’s was a daring tale of serving in seven battle areas in the South Pacific during World War II. His squadron shot down famed Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto and was the first to land on the island of Formosa, now Taiwan, which at that time belonged to the Japanese, Gordon said. In Formosa, they found only 19 surviving American prisoners. Thousands of other American military personnel were beheaded when the Japanese general in power in Formosa deemed them spies instead of prisoners of war, Gordon said. “I thought it was really good,” said 10-year-old Jared Gustafson. “A lot of them did a lot of famous stuff. That was really cool.”Lucky CandyGustafson was especially impressed with Candelario “Candy” Cordova’s tale of luck. Serving in World War II, Cordova fought in North Africa, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and England. He made the historic D-Day assault on June 6, 1944, in France and liberated Germany to end the war. In his year of combat missions, Cordova was never once wounded. He is now retired and lives in Minturn.
“Touch this man before you leave today,” veteran Buddy Simms advised the children. Simms is the commander of the Minturn Veterans of Foreign Wars post, which boasts more than 300 members and supporters. Simms encouraged the children to hold dear the poppy, the military’s memorial flower, which was sold on Veterans Day to earn money for needy veterans and those orphaned by war. “Take those Buddy Poppies out and think about all those soldiers who died keeping us free in America,” he said. Learning about the pastWith songs and introductions over, the children filed out into the gray morning, forming a circle around the flagpole. Fifth-grade teacher Tom Treat and his class hoisted a flag Treat had brought back from his time in Vietnam during the war. In the background, the sad sound of taps rang out.
“With what’s going on right now overseas, it’s a hard thing to talk about when you’re a vet, but kids need to understand the history of our country,” Treat said. “Once you go to war, you never want to go back.”As the children observed a moment of silence, the message sank in a little more with older students. “I learned that everyone who serves and who goes to war is special,” said 10-year-old Amanda Leonard. ===============================Learn more