Yes, it’s a federal holiday. Banks, government offices and some schools have the day off. Veterans Day, though, is more than a break from the work week. It’s a day to honor those in the community and the country who fought, who served, who sacrificed to protect the United States.
Members of the eighth-grade class at Pagosa Springs Middle School are anxiously awaiting Veterans Day, and it’s not because they get the day off. It’s because they get the chance to serve those who have served them through service to our country.
On Friday, Nov. 11, starting at 7:30 a.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center, Scott White’s eighth-grade class will begin serving the 12th annual Breakfast for Veterans, free to all who have served the country, from those who fought in World War II to those who recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.
“Dan Janowsky had this vision 12 years ago,” said White. “Since then, it has grown and grown.”
When Janowsky left the middle school for the high school, White took his place as the U.S. history teacher and the head of the Veterans Day breakfast.
More than something nice to do for the community, White uses the breakfast as a way to teach students about the government and why it is important that service men and women have protected, and continue to protect, that government.
White explains that during the first nine weeks of school, he teaches the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Each eighth-grader in his class must memorize the Bill of Rights.
“By the time we finish, the students really understand what the U.S. government is and understand the importance of the men and women who have protected it,” White says.
“Before (White’s class) I never knew the little details about everything,” says eighth-grader Brooke Bowdridge. “I didn’t understand what they had sacrificed, and I didn’t really understand why they fought.”
After the first nine weeks of White’s class, though, Bowdridge says she now has a better understanding of what freedom is.
Another of White’s students, Gus Palma, is also looking forward to Veterans Day with the deeper knowledge and understanding he has now.
“I’ve learned about civic virtues,” Palma says, adding that it is something White mentions daily in class. “Live a modest life; work hard; and put the common welfare above selfish interest.”
“Which is putting the community above your own interests,” White adds, and his students nod. “And the men and women in the military are making the highest sacrifice; they are willing to die to protect our government.”
“Yeah,” both Palma and Bowdridge chime in.
“My step-dad is the son of a Vietnam veteran, and this class enlightened me and I understand what my grandfather went through,” Palma says.
Palma’s grandfather passed away before Palma could talk to him about the war, about what his grandfather went through. Thanks to White’s class, though, Palma says he better understands what it might have been like for his grandfather; and with the upcoming breakfast, he will have a chance to talk with many veterans. In this way, Palma says he’ll gain a better understanding of the veterans in his own family.
“I’m looking forward to meeting people who fought and served outside the U.S.,” Palma says.
“But,” he adds, “I’m nervous because I don’t know if they’ll want to talk about their experiences.”
“I’m excited to serve them because of all they’ve done for us,” Bowdridge says of the upcoming breakfast.
In preparation for Veterans Day, Pagosa Springs Middle School will have several different veterans giving presentations to students, talking about their years of service. Among those giving presentation will be Tom Greenly, John Vick, Al Wiley and Hal Lowe.
Then, on Friday, the students will begin preparation for the breakfast at 6:30 a.m.
“I tell the students that waking up at 6 a.m., cooking and bringing bacon and sausage is not quite the same sacrifice as fighting a war,” White says.
Served fresh will be bacon and eggs, along with other contributions of baked goods and fruit, all provided by the eighth-grade class.
At 9:30, the middle school band will provide patriotic music, followed by music from members of the high school’s Americana Project.
All veterans are invited to attend, eat and share their pictures, memories and stories.