Veterans, from left, Ralph Whittum, John "Doc" Daughenbaugh and Bill McKelvie grab breakfast Sunday morning at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4264 in Steamboat Springs.

Photo by Scott Franz

Veterans, from left, Ralph Whittum, John "Doc" Daughenbaugh and Bill McKelvie grab breakfast Sunday morning at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4264 in Steamboat Springs.

Veterans Day a time for Routt County vets to reminisce

Local vets swap war stories at annual breakfast

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— Each man who arrived at an intimate breakfast Sunday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4264 in downtown Steamboat Springs came with a powerful reminder of the battles they endured.

Some brought fragile baseball caps and heavy leather jackets emblazoned with the insignia of their units.

Others brought scars or a permanent injury.

And John "Doc" Daughenbaugh brought the crisp Marine Corps. dress shirt he kept packed away in his closet for the past 42 years.

“Maybe it's just me finally coming to grips with everything,” the Vietnam veteran said about wearing the shirt that still fits him like a glove. “I guess it makes me feel a little more comfortable now. Looking back, I'm proud of my service and proud of my country.”

Daughenbaugh said he didn't exactly know what possessed him to take the shirt tinged with painful and positive memories out of his closet after all these years.

He said it just felt right.

He and about 14 other Routt County veterans on Sunday morning continued a 16-year tradition when they chowed down on eggs and pancakes and swapped war stories at a breakfast cooked by member's of the Post Auxiliary.

“To me, it's a privilege,” VFW bar manager Sandy Herbert said as she cooked up a fresh round of hashbrowns. “A lot of 'em have given us so much with their service. It's our time to serve them.”

The men, whose military careers spanned from World War II to Desert Storm, sometimes talked as though they hadn't seen one another in decades.

And they were in no hurry to finish their meals.

The vets said they may not get to reminisce like this for another year.

“Vets are some of the hardest people to get to open up,” VFW Post 4264 Cmdr. Tony Weiss said at the start of the breakfast. “And today is one of the few days they open up like this and swap war stories.”

The men talked about the weight they lost, or gained, during basic training as teenagers.

They reflected on their occasional brushes with death. They updated one another on how their children and grandchildren are doing, and they also pondered how the latest generation of veterans are faring in finding jobs after they return from war.

“You just get caught up in your own life, so it's good to catch up here on Veterans Day,” Marine veteran John Long said. “This is the only day, besides Memorial Day, where we get to really talk about our military experience.”

Veterans Day events in Routt County, which started last week with several programs at local elementary schools, continues Monday with an open house at the Doak Walker Care Center.

From 11 to 11:45 a.m., community members are invited to visit the center and hear from local WWII veterans about their service.

“The veterans we have up there are very excited to share their stories,” said VFW Post 4264 Auxiliary President Valerie Bussey.

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

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