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Veterans honor troops at Fly-In

Tamera Manzanares

— With the sun shining through a small break in the murky clouds, a crowd of military veterans, military families and spectators gathered to honor U.S. troops serving in Iraq during the Vintage Aircraft Fly-In held Saturday at the Steamboat Springs Airport.

About 100 people solemnly listened as area veterans, flanked by the Color Guard and Civil Air Patrol cadets, recognized local soldiers who are fighting — or who have died fighting — in the Iraq war.

Chance Phelps, Mark Lawton and Thomas Slocum — all from Routt County — have perished in Iraq.

Because of their sacrifices and those of all those serving, “our lives are full and our nation lives and the world is a much safer place,” Jim Stanko, a Vietnam-era veteran, told the crowd.

Charles McGee, a World War II Tuskegee Airman visiting from Bethesda, Md., was among veterans who appreciated the dedication.

“As a veteran, it’s magnificent to see their recognition of the importance of those who have served and what it means to young people who are the recipients of the freedoms we enjoy,” he said.

Gar Williams, also a Vietnam-era veteran, was part of the event and said later that it’s important to realize the particular challenges facing those serving in Iraq.

In the past, there have been military police and civil affairs units in charge of restoring peace to civilian populations. In Iraq, servicemen and servicewomen are dealing with those issues in addition to performing infantry duties, he said, adding that the civilian situations have been among the most dangerous.

Maggie Kriz, 13, worked for about six hours drawing a colorful depiction of an elk in the forest, which she posted at the ceremony and dedicated to family friend Dan McNasby, who is serving in Iraq.

“I thought it was amazing and really cool,” she said about the ceremony.

“You learn to care more,” her friend Maggie Faulkner, 13, added.

Dan McNasby’s father, Joe McNasby, said his son was among others in the military who told their family and friends that instead of care packages, they’d rather have shoes and clothing to distribute to poor Iraqi children.

“That’s the part people don’t hear about,” said Joe McNasby, who organized the dedication.

Nathan Zabel, 13, of Hayden, was among volunteers with the Support Our Troops community group that was gathering batteries, toothbrushes, snacks and other items to send to the troops. The group also was selling raffle tickets for a handmade quilt to raise money for more supplies.

Nathan’s brother Justin Zabel, who has been in the military nine years, returned to Colorado from Iraq in April. He is currently in Fort Polk, La., where he is recovering from a serious motorcycle accident that happened near Baggs, Wyo., while he was riding home from Canada.

Though his other brother and father also have been in the military, Nathan, on the advice of brother Justin, doesn’t plan to take the same path.

“He said if I went in, he’d kick my butt and that I need to go to college,” Nathan said.

His mother, Deborah Zabel, was proud of Nathan’s volunteer efforts and said they were a valuable way for him to understand and honor troops’ sacrifices.

“I believe it’s very important to teach and train our children to know what these men and women are doing so we can live in this country,” she said.

Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors members and staff Jody Scott, Marci Valicenti and Molly Hibbard have spearheaded the support group, which will be at the Fly-In from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today.

They will be accepting monetary donations as well as supplies ranging from CDs, DVDs and phone cards to toiletries and books for the troops. The quilt raffle will be at 1 p.m.

Donations also may be dropped off at the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors office at 625 S. Lincoln Ave., No. 202.

— To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com


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