Veterans Day activities kick off Tuesday in Steamboat Springs

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Veterans Day events

In honor of Veterans Day on Friday, American Legion Post No. 44, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4264 and their auxiliaries will participate in the following activities:

Tuesday

9 to 10 a.m. Veterans program at Strawberry Park Elementary School.

Wednesday

1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Veterans program at Soda Creek Elementary School.

9:45 to 10:30 a.m. Veterans program at Christian Heritage School.

Friday

6:30 to 9 a.m. Veterans Day breakfast at VFW Post No. 4264. Breakfast is free to all veterans.

11 a.m. Visit with veterans at Doak Walker Care Center.

7 to 11 p.m. USO dance at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. The cost is $35 per couple.

*Veterans still are needed to participate in the Strawberry Park and Soda Creek programs. Those who are interested should call Jim Stanko at 970-879-3936.

— As often as he can, Jim Stanko reads a copy of a letter a woman wrote 11 years ago to her father, thanking him for his military service.

“There will always be some that will never understand, but if the veterans keep telling their stories, the majority will appreciate the part in our history that you have played,” the woman wrote in the letter to her father, Jeff Kaul. Kaul survived the attacks on Pearl Harbor as a member of the U.S. Navy.

“It’s a tear jerker,” Stanko said Thursday about the letter dated Dec. 8, 2000, that he was carrying around in Steamboat Springs that originally was published in Wyoming’s Sublette County Journal.

“I read it just about every time I can. That to me sums up the whole thing,” Stanko said.

Stanko, a Vietnam-era veteran, said the spirit of that letter is captured every year in Steamboat as he and other veterans visit Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools to mark Veterans Day.

The Steamboat Springs rancher and other Routt County veterans this week will kick off Veterans Day activities Tuesday morning at Strawberry Park Elementary School.

There, representatives from four branches of the military will talk to students about their service and will in turn be honored by the students as they sing songs and put on a series of performances.

The students in years past have written thank you letters to the visiting veterans in addition to the performances.

“It’s a two-way learning experience,” Stanko said about the event. “The kids are thanking us for our service, and as veterans, we are showing them what we did and how we served our country so they can enjoy what they’re doing.”

Stanko said that for the past seven years, members of the American Legion Post No. 44 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4264 in Steamboat have visited with the students to mark Veterans Day, a federal holiday created to honor veterans on the anniversary of the end of World War I. Veterans Day this year is Friday.

Stanko said events in Steamboat celebrating the holiday were sparse eight years ago but since have become overwhelming in a good way.

“I guess it’s neat that seven or eight years ago there was very little interest in Veterans Day as a holiday here. But today that has changed, and we are finding new ways to recognize the service and the contribution vets have made,” he said. “All of this is really appreciated, and something that every one of us veterans value deeply.”

With an estimated 1,800 veterans living in Routt County, Stanko said many of their stories still are unknown.

He added that this year he hopes a younger generation of veterans who recently served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan attend the Veterans Day events.

“Veterans come home and become viable members of the community, and they all have some great stories to tell,” Stanko said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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