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Local students greet soldiers

Scott N. Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyJeff Sanders, right a vetran from the war in Iraq shows students of Gypsum Elementary Thursday at the Eagle County Airport his prosthetic leg. Sanders along with other disabled vetrans are here to ski in Vail.
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GYPSUM – Marvin Roxas has been applauded by officers at the Pentagon. But the reception he received at the Eagle County Airport yesterday was more gratifying.Roxas, a Marine who lost a limb in Iraq, is among 11 war veterans in Vail for the rest of the week, guests of the “America Supports You” program sponsored by Vail Resorts. The soldiers, all of whom were badly injured in Iraq, were greeted Thursday by a throng of flag-waving fourth and fifth grade students from Gypsum Elementary School.”This is very nice,” Roxas said. “It’s nice when older people talk to you, but having kids here is even more special.”The welcoming crowd was put together on short notice, and wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of help from teachers. “I put out an e-mail to Monday night, and by 9 a.m. Tuesday, the teachers had all said they’d be here,” principal Mitch Forsberg said.

With just a couple of days to prepare, the kids got to work making posters and writing cards and letters. One card, written by fifth grader Daniella Macias, said simply, “Thank you for saving our freedom.”That’s typical of the sentiment, said fifth grader teacher Rich Deane.”A lot of them are kind of touching,” he said.In addition to making cards, teachers also talked to the kids about the injuries the soldiers had sustained.”These are injuries for life,” Deane said. “In a way, I think the kids will get more out of it than the soldiers. They need to realize this isn’t a video game, it’s life.”And for most of the students welcoming the soldiers Thursday, seeing people missing limbs was a new experience.

“It’s kind of scary ’til you get used to it,” fifth grader Kasandra Portice said.But the soldiers’ injuries didn’t stop kids from swarming around the combat veterans.”I talked to a lady soldier, and she told me how she lost her arm,” fifth grader Bryanna Sandoval said. And most of the kids were happy they could come out and greet the soldiers.”I’m happy and sad,” fourth grader Aaron Kline said. “I’m happy we can help, but I’m sad they got hurt.”



Fifth grader Cordell Schofield said he was glad to come out, too.”I’m glad we can honor the people who have helped us,” he said.And the soldiers appreciated the welcome they received.Chris Fesmire, who’s missing both legs, said he was surprised by the welcome, and “very pleasantly so.””They seemed pretty excited to see us,” Fesmire said.”I’ve never gotten to shake kids’ hands since I’ve been back,” Jeff Sanders added. “It was a great experience.”

The kids seemed to think so, too.===============Ski supportWhat: America Supports You, a chance for injured military personnel to come to Vail for a long weekend.Who: 11 soldiers and marines from Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.



Where: VailHow long: Through Sunday=================Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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