A variety of activities in Surface Creek Valley last week hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, local community institutions, and by individuals emphasized the meaning of service to America symbolized by Veterans Day.
A combined assembly for high school and middle school students in Cedaredge provided a moving highlight to the valley's observances. There, WWII veteran Phil Ellsworth of Cedaredge shared a moving and poignant presentation of his wartime experiences illuminated by 70 years of reflection. He voiced his confidence that the generation of Americans assembled that afternoon would continue America's tradition of freedom, and his presentation concluded with a tribute to America and the values it embodies.
Other observances of Veterans Day in Surface Creek Valley included a community cookout hosted by the employees of Cedaredge Bank of Colorado; presentations to veterans at Horizons in Eckert; posting of flags on Main Street; a pancake breakfast fund raiser; and, the annual Stars and Stripes Military Ball at the Stolte Shed.
Ellsworth, a poet, gave the assembled students an un-romanticized accounting for the cost of freedom when it must be defended by war. "When friends die," he said, "it hurts. Not just now, but forever."
He eulogized friends and comrades lost in France and in the other theaters of that global conflict with words of Civil War era poet Walt Whitman honoring them as "bold, cautious, and true."
It is not just the memory of friends who die in war that long remains in the chords of man's soul; the memory of any death does as well. Ellsworth shared that feeling with three gripping lines whose lyricism almost masks the stark reality of war they convey:
I remember all;
I hear my shot
I see you fall."
Ellsworth was an infantryman in the European Theater. And served with the 100th Infantry Division. He was a high school junior on the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, a day following which, "Life changed fast," he said
Ellsworth told the assembled students that he has confidence in their generation's ability to preserve freedom for future generations. "I have met you, and your generation is capable of meeting whatever confronts you in peace or war," he said.
He quoted the following lines from the hymn "America the Beautiful:"
Oh Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
The assembled students gave Ellsworth a standing ovation for his address, and they rose in his honor once more as everyone sang Happy Birthday to their guest who had turned 90 years old just the day before.
VFW Post member Gary Tollefson noted that Veteran's Day honors "all who have worn the uniform" of the United States military services. He recounted a page from history how America's third president, Thomas Jefferson, responded to the challenge of pirates along the Barbary Coast of Africa in one of the new American nation's first successful military campaigns in 1801.
Veterans in attendance at the school assembly were recognized, and a student-produced video of thanks to veterans was played.
Elsewhere in the Valley, the local VFW post visited Horizons at Eckert and distributed certificates of service to veterans living there. Certificates were presented to David Koepsell, Joseph McFadden, John Hawkins, Jay Hall, Tom Balch, Alice Winkler, Ed Douglass, Jack Hibbert and Richard Fischer.