Veterans Day celebration at Freedom Park honors Vail Valley veterans, families |

Veterans Day celebration at Freedom Park honors Vail Valley veterans, families

Annual VFW ceremony also marks 101 years since Armistice Day marked 'The War to End All Wars'

Laura Johnson rings the bell to signify the start of the Veterans Day program Monday in Edwards. The event pays homage to all men and women who are serving or have served the country.
Chris Dillmann |

EDWARDS — Monday’s Veterans Day ceremony at Freedom Park was a celebration.

“This is a celebration of all our veterans have done for us,” said Pat Hammon with the local VFW Post, who served as a nurse in Vietnam. “It’s not a time for sadness.”

Local children and grandchildren might have come home from school last week talking about the local military veterans who visited their schools: 19 buildings and 25 combined student bodies in one week, a steady stream of Purple Hearts, medals for valor and meritorious service, combat medals … things quiet heroes wear when the time is right.

The local veterans even celebrated the U.S. Marine Corps’ 244th birthday.  A grand time befitting the Marines was had by all — “OORAH!”

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Nicole Gustafson opened Monday afternoon’s celebration with the national anthem, her voice wafting over the crisp, clear afternoon gathering. A chorus of local fifth-graders dazzled the crowd with “For The Good of the Many, So Give the Few.”

Gold Star, Blue Star families

Hammon reminded us that America’s Nov. 11 celebration began 101 years ago as Armistice Day marking the end of World War I, “The War to End all Wars.”

It wasn’t, of course. A handful of World War II veterans were on hand Monday. Leland Franz stood for two wars. The 91-year-old Franz served in both World War II and Korea. Dozens of other American military veterans stood in the afternoon sun when Hammon asked them all to be recognized.

A crowd builds for the annual Veterans Day program Monday in Edwards.
Chris Dillmann |

Along with recognizing local veterans and the Vail Valley’s Gold Star Families, including Sarah Vaughn and Evenor Herrera’s family, the VFW rolled out a new program — Blue Star Families who have someone serving in the U.S. military. The proud families called out the service their family members are providing the nation: A daughter is an F-16 pilot, others are Navy aviators, West Point cadets, Marines, soldiers, sailors. The Gold Star Families serve as a reminder to the Blue Star Families of the sacrifice that could be asked.

A call to action

Keynote speaker Rabbi Joel Newman served as a Navy chaplain before landing in the Vail Valley with B’Nai Vail. Newman said military life touches your senses: the smell of aviation fuel, dust when you shrug on your flak jacket, the sound of silence and when that silence is broken. Those smells and experiences create a bond through common experiences and memories, Newman said.

“We live with memories that bind us as veterans,” Newman said. “Remember those who served their country and especially those who did not come home.”

Homemade cookies made by Edwards resident Penny LoFaro were available to eat for the Veterans Day event Monday at Freedom Park in Edwards. LoFaro says she loves sending them overseas to troops serving around the world.
Chris Dillmann |

A moment of silence marked the crowd’s respect and gratitude for all the veterans, those attending Monday’s ceremony, those who did not survive their service and those who served and lived.

“Remember those who served their country and those who did not come home. You will always be remembered,” Newman said in his closing prayer.

B’Nai Vail bought the VFW Post an electronic bugle. You hold it up, push a button and it plays a military bugle call. To close Monday’s Veterans Day celebration, Buddy Sims did not play the traditional “Taps.” He played “Reveille,” the U.S. military’s morning wakeup call and call to action.

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