Spotlight falls on those who served as Steamboat celebrates Veterans Day

Gary Arentz, who served with the U.S. Navy as a quartermaster, second class, salutes the American Flag as it makes its way past him during last year's Veterans Day ceremony at Strawberry Park Elementary School in 2019. The program, which was put on by the students, is part of a long-running tradition where the community honors those who have served in the military.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Memorial Day is for service members who died in service to their country, Armed Services Day is for those currently serving and Veterans Day — which is Friday, Nov. 11 — is a time to honor and recognize those who have served.

“It’s kind of a time to reflect back on our time where we all served,” said Jeff Steck, VFW Commander Post 4264. “We have such a variety of people who serve in so many different places. I was a pilot in the Navy, but we have Special Forces and Navy SEALs. We have Navy dentists, we have people who served on submarines but we all served. I think that’s the key every one of us, no matter what we did, we made the commitment to serving our country. We appreciate the time when people show they recognize us for the sacrifices that we made.”

This year’s Veterans Day celebration will begin at 8:35 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, with a presentation at Strawberry Park Elementary School, followed by a Marine Corp. birthday party at West End Sports Grill, where spouses and family members of those who have served are invited to celebrate the branch’s 247th trip around the sun.

On Friday, Veterans Day events will continue at 8:45 a.m. with a program at Soda Creek Elementary, an 11 a.m. presentation at Casey’s Pond and another program at 1 p.m. at Sleeping Giant. Johnny B. Goods and the Ore House will be offering veterans meals.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, there will be a service for Crosby Perry-Smith at Howelsen Hill, and on Sunday, Nov. 13, members of the VFW and American Legion will be selling poppies at Ace Hardware with proceeds going to the Arlo fundraiser.

American Legion Commander Hal Matthes said he appreciates the efforts in the Steamboat Springs community and feels that the community sets a high bar when it comes to honoring its veterans.

He said Memorial Day and Veterans Day shine a light on local veterans and help them connect with one another and with the community.

“I’ve actually never seen anywhere that they do what they do here with the schools where each elementary school puts on a program,” Steck said. “I’ve never seen that anywhere, so it keeps us busy. In fact, with the weekend, this is our busiest period of the year.”

Matthes said he hopes the veterans will continue to find ways to connect with the community. Recently, several veterans spoke to students at Yampa Valley High School, and Matthes said the veterans have a lot to offer and would welcome more opportunities to connect with students in the community.

The commanders said the events celebrating service members also bring the community together.

“I think we get more veterans coming to these events every year,” Steck said. “I think we have 1,200 veterans in Routt County, and we’ve really made an effort to reach out to each and every one. What happens when you are in the military is we leave, we go our separate ways and sometimes we lose touch with those we served with. It is nice to reconnect with people, and what I found out from one of our Vietnam vets is once we start telling our story about our service, we realize that we have more in common with them than we knew.”

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