Eighth-grade American history teacher Scott White invited SUN staff to his Pagosa Springs Middle School classroom to discuss next Monday’s pancake breakfast, to be held in the Ross Aragon Community Center, as a way to honor the community’s veterans.
The doors will open at 7:30 a.m. and the event will end at 10:30, with patriotic music and the posting of colors at 9:30 provided by the American Legion and Archuleta County Veteran’s Service Officer Raymond Taylor. All current and past members of the military, along with their families, are encouraged to enjoy this free celebration.
White rounded up several of his students to join him for the SUN interview. These students took turns describing what the event means to them.
Jazmyn Reyes and Liam Doctor were the first to show up. Doctor described the food he and his fellow students planned to bring and prepare — fruit, muffins, bacon, sausage, eggs and pancakes — and explained why the students were doing it. “We will serve them and talk to them and listen to their stories. We will find out where they served and what they did.”
Dalton Lucero was so excited to talk about the event he ran all the way to White’s classroom, and subsequently had to catch his breath before he could say anything.
In the meantime, DeAnn Schaaf explained there were over 110 eighth-graders at the school, and all would participate in the festivities in one way or another. Many of their parents would also be involved.
Kimberly Armendariz and Ty Kimsey were the last to join the conversation. “We’re serving them because they served us,” Armendariz affirmed.
“We’ve had over 200 veterans show up before,” White explained, “but a lot of them bring wives and family members, so there have been times when the entire community center was full — well over 300 people. We keep track year after year. We have the veterans sign in based on which branch of the military they served in — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard.”
White has been doing the Veterans Day Breakfast for 11 years now, a program started by his predecessor, Dan Janowsky, 13 years ago.
The kids explained all the students have signed up to bring certain items. Other than the eggs and pancakes, which will be cooked on-site, the students will bring their food to the center ready to serve, having lovingly prepared it themselves at home. The kids will be there at 6 a.m. to get everything set up.
“We’ve even been advertising on the radio this year,” White explained, “in case there are any hunters in town who are veterans and want to come down for a free breakfast. There will be plenty of food; we have never run out.”
White said his classes have been studying the constitution recently, and the students explained the preamble and how the constitution, “provides for the common defense.” In addition to decorating the community center with, “lots of red, white and blue” on Sunday night, the students have been preparing PowerPoint presentations on what they have learned in American history class, which will play while the veterans eat.
Reyes described another project her fellow students have been working on, based on the question, “What does freedom mean to me?” These essays will also be presented to the veterans.
“I want to thank everyone who served,” Schaaf pointed out, “because I feel very strongly about my freedom. So I just want them to know how I feel and I want them to understand that I appreciate what they did.”
“I’m looking forward to hearing how they talk about what they’ve done,” one student said, “how they experienced military service and what they thought of it. I want to hear it from their perspective, not just ours. I want to get their advice because I want to join the military some day.”
Several students said they were looking forward to talking to WW II vets, knowing time is limited for being able to hear stories from that era. The students possessed a surprising amount of knowledge about veterans and vet issues, including what vets from different time periods have gone through.
One student said she was looking forward to talking to the wives and family members of the vets, to try to understand what they went through while their veteran was away on duty.
White described some of the veterans he has met over the years, including one who survived the Bataan Death March. White has invited several veterans to speak to his students, and has been campaigning to make events similar to this happen throughout the state of Colorado, claiming today’s students are the “posterity” referred to in the constitution, and they should be aware of what veterans have been through for their future.
Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation in 1954 to change the name to Veterans Day as a way to honor those who served in all American wars. The day honors military veterans with parades and speeches across the nation. A national ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau there were 21.2 million military veterans in the United States in 2012. Of those, 1.6 million were female and 9.6 million were 65 and older. At the other end of the age spectrum, 1.8 million were younger than 35.
Of the total, 7.4 million vets served during the Vietnam era, while 5.4 million served during the Gulf Wars (representing service from August 1990 to present); 1.6 million served in World War II (1941-1945); 2.3 million served in the Korean War (1950-1953); and 5.3 million served in peacetime only.