By Kathryn White
When the Mile High Fife and Drum Corps wrapped up its music performance the morning of Nov. 9, a full schedule of commemorative Veterans Day activities was just getting underway at The Gardens at St. Elizabeth retirement community.
U.S. Navy veteran Rick Wohlers orchestrated a day-long schedule of events that included patriotic music, refreshments and a tabletop display that covered over 200 years of military history, including photographs and newspaper clippings from residents’ personal collections.
Volunteer Barb Chomko greeted each guest with a handmade red poppy, a symbol used to remember Allied soldiers killed in World War I. Paul McMenamen shared the history of the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McRae (1872-1918), before reciting the stirring poem to the several dozen residents and guests who gathered.
Months in the making, the day continued with an afternoon segment opened by the Denver North H.S. Army Junior ROTC’s Presentation of Colors and Pledge of Allegiance.
The commemoration went on to alternate between moments of appreciation and remembrance, and the sharing of stories.
U.S. Air Force “Buck Sgt.” Bruce Jacobson shared about his three-day Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to visit the monuments and memorials dedicated to his service. Joey Wall shared the story of her family’s efforts from the homefront during World War II, and about her two older brothers who went off to serve. One, George, became missing in action when his plane was shot down, and he never returned home. Her story transitioned into an opportunity to remember the over 81,000 women and men still missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and later conflicts.
The printed program for the day told its own story. The Gardens at St. Elizabeth is home to 19 veterans from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines. Thirty-six residents’ late spouses were veterans, two staff are veterans and three residents worked as civilians for the Coast Guard, Air Force and the U.S. Department of Defense.
“And so may every veteran of our nation’s armed forces feel truly and appropriately honored by the attention and appreciation of their fellow citizens,” said Chaplain Aram Haroutunian in a closing benediction. “Let no one feel forgotten or neglected. Let every man and woman, young or old, feel the deep and enduring gratitude of our nation.”