By Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
ELLICOTT, Colo. — Veterans from the Colorado Springs area, including Schriever Air Force Base, attended a Veterans Day assembly at Ellicott High School, Colorado, Wednesday, Nov. 11, in honor of the holiday.
“A huge debt is owed to America’s veterans and their families,” said Robin Weidemueller, Ellicott School District Student Services director. “We pay tribute today by recognizing what they have achieved and joining them in their resolve in keeping America safe and free.”
The district’s faculty, staff and students highlighted those who’ve served, past and present, with a ceremony featuring music from the high school band and the Rockies Clarinet Quartet, from the U.S. Air Force Academy, songs sung by the district’s student choirs, a tribute video, a moment of silence and a final salute.
Col. DeAnna M. Burt, 50th Space Wing commander, and assembly keynote speaker, talked to students about military service and what it means to be a veteran.
“Today we’re here to celebrate Veterans Day and the strength, courage and dedication of the men and women who have defended this nation in times of conflict and peace,” said Burt. “A veteran is someone who is currently serving or has served as a member of our nation’s armed forces. It doesn’t matter if they served four years or 30 plus… it doesn’t matter if they served in times of peace, or times of conflict, if they volunteered or if they were drafted — all you need to know is they are a veteran.”
After the keynote speech, veterans stood as their names were read and each was given a letter and hand-made flag from the Ellicott students as a symbol of their appreciation.
“This was a wonderful way for our kids to honor the veterans of our community,” said Mark McPhearson, Ellicott High School principal. “Ellicott is very respective and appreciative of all of our veterans and what they’ve gone through.”
Although the main goal of the assembly was to respect and honor veterans in the Ellicott community, Ellicott’s faculty and Schriever leadership agree the impact the ceremony had on the students is most valuable.
“Freedom is not free,” said Burt. “We need to teach every generation what it means to defend our nation and about the sacrifice it takes. It is important they understand and support that so in generations to come we can continue to remain the great nation that we are today.”
One way the district teaches and emphasizes the importance of military service and sacrifice is through their walls of stars.
“We have a military wall of stars displayed in each of our schools that represents our students who have family members who have served or are serving in the military,” said Weidemueller. “This is to recognize [service members] and show them our gratitude. We are proud to say that we have over 530 service members in our community who have served to keep us safe and free. We are also proud to say they have a [combined] total of 5,000 years of service to us as a nation.”
Of the 530 service members in the Ellicott community, one stood out — Ed Keefer, a 93-year-old World War II veteran who served in the 10th Mountain Division.
“We had veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, both Gulf wars and some who are currently serving,” said McPhearson. “It really brings home to the students what Veterans Day is all about — honoring those who serve our nation and those who are writing the check for the ultimate sacrifice.”
Attendees were impressed and grateful for the students and staff who put the event together.
“It was absolutely amazing; I was really amazed by the band, and really happy the Rockies Clarinet Quartet could be out here today with the kids,” said Burt. “It was a great presentation — probably one of the best I’ve been to in my 23-year career. There is unbelievable spirit in this school.”
Ellicott School District’s faculty say they are happy to host the assembly each year and look forward to strengthening the relationship they have with the veterans in the community and at Schriever AFB.
“I want to say thank you to the Ellicott community for partnering with us and allowing us to be with them today,” said Burt. “It shows our great ties in the Schriever-Ellicott Community and we want to strengthen and continue that into the future. At Schriever we serve as a team, we are a family, and Ellicott is part of that family.”