By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Veterans Day is a time to reflect, remember and honor all those who have served in the military.
For many high school students, Veterans Day is also a great opportunity to learn about history from those who know it best — veterans.
The student body and faculty at Englewood High School in Englewood, Colo., had the opportunity to honor more than 80 local veterans during their third annual Veterans Day event. A representative from the Peterson Air and Space Museum was there to share a little history that many in attendance were not aware of.
“The presentation was a hit. A lot of people just don’t know the history of Peterson, especially up in that area,” said Jeffery Nash, Peterson Air and Space Museum deputy director.
For many of the students at EHS, the name Edward Peterson did not ring a bell; to them it was just the name of an Air Force base located 70 miles to the south. The city of Englewood, located in the suburbs of Denver was once the hometown of 1st Lt. Edward Peterson, who graduated EHS in 1935 and was killed seven years later during a training accident at Colorado Springs Army Air Base, today’s Peterson AFB.
“This is the story of Peterson, a Colorado boy who was achieving so many great things at such a young age,” said Nash. “He was an over achiever to say the least. When he was working toward his masters, he was working three part-time jobs. He worked in a post office, an auto parts store and worked at the university doing maintenance work.”
Among the 80 plus veterans, Englewood’s Mayor Randy Penn and Colorado State Sen. Linda Newell were in attendance during the event. The field house erupted as the veterans were lead to the center of the basketball court.
“A very rousing welcome, lots of cheers, lots of stuff going on, and I could see a few tears in the eyes of some of the vets,” Nash said.
Nash was the first presenter to speak at the event, giving a short recap of Peterson’s life story followed by a beautiful slideshow of old photographs showing Peterson at EHS and his life in the Air Force; bridging the gap and connecting the students to their past.
“This is a guy who lived on South Sherman Street in Englewood, Colorado and went to their high school. He was a shining example of — if you set your mind to it, if you have the determination — you can do some really great things,” Nash said.
The story of Peterson’s life was an uplifting and inspiring piece of local history to share — to celebrate Veterans Day.
“I don’t think our student body realized that Peterson AFB was named after an EHS graduate,” said Elizabeth Sedalnick, Englewood High School math teacher and Veterans Day event organizer. “I was glad to have Jeff talk about the history and tie us to the base. I think it gave our students a sense of pride to know this information. In fact, many staff members did not know about the history. The pictures added some reality to what we were hearing; it was a great presentation.”
At the conclusion of the event, Nash was surprised to see how many people in the area did not know about their connection to Peterson AFB, including the city’s mayor.
“I had so many students come up to me and say they just didn’t know that,” Nash said. “The mayor came up to me and said, ‘I didn’t know that, thank you very much for sharing.’”
Perhaps the best way to summarize Peterson’s sacrifice for his nation comes from the words on a certificate presented to Peterson’s family and signed by President Roosevelt; “He stands in the unbroken line of patriots who have dared to die, so that freedom might live. And grow. And increase its blessings. Freedom lives. And through it, he lives.”
“We educated a lot of people — that is what it’s all about,” said Nash.