Steamboat Springs rancher and Vietnam veteran Jim Stanko was weary when he walked to the mailbox. He reached inside and pulled out the envelope containing the letter explaining that he would be shipping off for Vietnam as part of the Marine Corps draft. His son was 1 month old.
Many veterans have stories to tell on Veterans Day. World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and the Iraq war --veterans from all the recent U.S. wars and those on inactive duty packed Steamboat Springs' Veterans of Foreign Wars on Tuesday evening for their annual Veterans Day dinner, where stories were swapped and friendships rekindled.
"This is a fantastic turnout," Stanko said. "It reflects the people's dedication to this country. It's important. We've got to keep passing this down. That's where patriotism starts."
Steamboat VFW Commander Wayne Weber welcomed the large crowd and led the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer for those who have served in the military, paying the utmost respect to the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.
Active uniformed Marines talked about the importance of Veterans Day.
Veterans Day is recognized Nov. 11 as the anniversary of the Armistice signed by the Allies and the Germans in 1918, ending World War I after four years of conflict.
That day was a day of rejoicing, and nothing but smiles were seen Tuesday night. Many thanked Michael Condie, Routt County Veterans Affairs service officer, for helping organize the event.
Condie, in turn, thanked them for coming, asking all to stop by his office for a visit.
Condie had his own story to share. He fought in Operation Desert Storm, landing in Saudi Arabia on Dec. 30, 1990. He remembers dodging machine-gun fire and recalls the burning oil wells in Iraq.
Condie said war stories were insignificant compared to the friendships and lifelong bonds formed and lessons learned from military service.
"You think about life real hard when people are trying to kill you," Condie said.
"I'm still a Marine. I just don't serve anymore. And that's the thing we have here. We're all still very much a part of the military -- it's part of our life."
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