Honor, protect their legacy

Tuesday was the 14th consecutive year for the Pagosa Springs Middle School’s eighth-grade class to host a breakfast to honor and thank the veterans of Archuleta County for their service to our country.

This tradition was started by Dan Janowsky, then eighth-grade social studies teacher, and has continued under the leadership of teacher Scott White.

Students, parents and teachers prepare and serve breakfast to all the veterans who attend. But it’s more than just breakfast that is served. They dish out love, thankfulness and admiration for those who served our country. Everyone who attends the event walks away with a nourished heart and soul.

My dad always looked forward to the annual Veterans Day breakfast.

I would use the excuse of taking photos for the newspaper so that I could watch from the sidelines as Dad shared his scrapbook of Navy memories with youngsters who were eager to hear his stories. I loved to watch his eyes sparkle with happiness as he reminisced with other veterans.

Breakfast was still being served at the community center on Tuesday morning when the first Letter to the Editor praising the event was delivered to my desk.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the newspaper office as the staff passed the letter around to be read. I can’t say it better than Jacqui and Russ Widener, so here are their thoughts:

“Wow, what a wonderful celebration of Veterans Day.

“I’d heard about the annual eighth graders’ Veterans Day breakfast, but today my husband and I and our two service dogs experienced the incredible feeling of respect, patriotism and celebration of this meaningful holiday.

“My husband is a Vietnam vet and I doubt that he’s ever felt so appreciated. When he returned from his tour in Vietnam, there was no debriefing, no celebration, no welcome home. This morning was so, so different from the attitude at the time he returned from the war to his country.

“Thank you, one and all, for all you did today and the days in preparation to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of so many vets who are lucky enough to live here in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I’ve lived in many, many big cities and never have I felt such pride in and from our young citizens.

“I cannot get over the maturity, grace, respect and friendliness of these terrific eighth graders and the pride for Mr. White and the now tradition of this breakfast.

“The sophistication of these young people in this small town is wonderful to experience and I hope they can hold on to these precious values all their lives.

“Thank you so very much from the bottom of our hearts.”

As for my Dad, he passed away on Father’s Day two years ago.  A retired lieutenant sent me this email this year on the anniversary of his death:

“I don’t forget this day and remember him often on many other days of the year. I want each of you in the Oldham family, especially the young ones, to know how much that he is still respected and missed. You three very much know the rarity of the man — perhaps the young ones who never had the privilege can understand just how much he was beloved by other people such as myself when also hearing about him from others. They have a legacy to honor and protect.”

Over the years, the annual veterans breakfast has grown to mean so much to the veterans of our community. Our photo archives of the event document many faces of those who have passed away.

Thank you to our eighth-graders for honoring and protecting the legacies of our treasured veterans.

Thank you to our veterans for protecting our precious freedoms.

Terri Lynn Oldham House