Valley stops to honor local military veterans |

Valley stops to honor local military veterans

Retired U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Gary Thornton, of Edwards, plays "Taps" to conclude the 10th annual Veterans Day service in Freedom Park on Tuesday. Thornton said he would like more veterans to get involved locally.
Townsend Bessent | |

About Veterans Day

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

In 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day, to honor all U.S. military veterans.

VAIL — Veterans Day is like being in love: You appreciate them most of the time, but once in a while it hits you right in the heart — like when the bugler plays taps at the end of a ceremony and tears well up in a warrior’s eyes.

Americans all over the valley and the country stopped Tuesday to say thanks and honor U.S. military veterans.

Throughout the valley, schools have been hosting local veterans since Friday, letting them speak to classrooms full of kids, some of whom want to serve, and others enjoying the freedom not to. Tuesday saw dozens gather on a crisp afternoon in Freedom Park, under the piece of limestone that was blown off the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Tuesday also marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, “The Great War” thought at the time to be “the war to end all wars.” It wasn’t.

Support Local Journalism


“Life is not always easy, but nothing compares with military service,” Tyson Ivie said to an Eagle Valley High School class.

Ivie grew up here and joined the Army a couple years out of high school. The Army sent him to war; war sent him home.

Ivie has a handle on his PTSD, and he smiles a little when he tells you where the eight pieces of shrapnel are still lodged in his body.


“You do it for your brothers. You’d do anything for them,” said Dan Riley, with the Vail Veterans Program.

Riley wore shorts into Vail Mountain School Tuesday morning, so hundreds of kids could get a look at the prosthetics where his legs used to be. He lost them both in Iraq.

During the Q&A session, the students asked him everything:

Did it hurt? Yes, especially for the first few minutes. After that, shock set in as his body tried to cope with it.

Do you ski? Yes. He uses a monoski all over the mountain. “Try to keep up,” he said smiling.

Not many kept up with Jeffrey Matthews.

“There’s no greater honor than serving your country,” Matthews told a group of local high school students.

He was an Army Ranger when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and he found himself in Operation Desert Storm. Matthews has always hated bullies.

“We don’t allow that if we can help it,” Matthews said.

After Kuwait and Iraq came secret missions to Panama and Honduras.

He was injured jumping out of a helicopter, and now he’s a disabled veteran. He has 47 M-60 rounds tattooed on his upper body as a tribute to those with whom he served.


“It’s all about love,” said Bernie Krueger. “Love of country, love of God, fellow man and fellow soldiers.”

But more than anything, it is about the love of family, Krueger said.

Krueger graduated from Battle Mountain High School, then the U.S. Naval Academy. He joined the Marines as a pilot and flew helicopters all over the world.

While he was deployed, his wife remained home with their three children. It’s been years, and his voice cracks a little when he talks about their “towering sacrifice.”

“She worried all the time,” Krueger said. “The families who remain behind bear a tremendous burden.”

We’re well into the 21st century, but the world can be an unstable place. People with weapons still are called upon to try to keep order.

“I still have friends out there at the pointy end of the spear, defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Krueger said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail

Support Local Journalism