Roaring Fork students honor veterans, contemplate service |

Roaring Fork students honor veterans, contemplate service

U.S. Air Force Veteran Mike Blair thanks and salutes the Glenwood Springs Middle School chior during the school's Veterans Day assembly on Friday afternoon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Roaring Fork Schools honored community veterans Friday with assemblies, concerts and speeches by students, faculty and veterans. Veterans Day falls on Sunday, and Colorado and many other states will observe the holiday on Monday.

Roaring Fork High School and Carbondale Middle School celebrated in a combined noon assembly, reading the names of any veterans who came to the event.

“This is our gift to you,” CMS band and music teacher Tami Wisley said as she introduced the bands to start the Veterans Day assembly at Carbondale Middle School Friday.

“It wasn’t too much, it wasn’t a lot of B.S. It was, ‘thank you,’” Frank McSwain, who served in the Navy from 1962-67, said of the Carbondale assembly.

“I think it’s good to instill in the students an appreciation for what previous generations have done to preserve this country,” said Clarence Blackwell, also A Navy veteran who served from 1952-56.

“On Veterans Day, we recognize and acknowledge what sacrifices were made for us,” Corbin Carpenter, an eighth grader at CMS, said in a speech. “So, what service can a middle school student offer? We have the power to help people. All people appreciate it when we step out of our own way to do something nice for another person,” Carpenter said.

Wisley honored one of her band students, Johan Soto, as exemplifying the kind of service adults tend to desire in young students. “Johan has exhibited kindness daily by helping his peers, and asking me almost every day ‘is there something I can help with?’ And this is at 3:20 p.m., after he has already had a full day of school,” Wisley said.

“You don’t have to be in the military to serve your country. People do it every day that aren’t in the military,” Blackwell said. Police, fire crews, teachers and medical staff serve their community through their professions, Blackwell said.

“We kind of take it for granted,” McSwain said.

At the Veterans Day concert at Glenwood Springs Middle School Friday — featuring the band under the direction of Chane Smith and a choir led by Shanti Gruber — the price of military service was emphasized.

“At our school and in our community, we all have a very deep appreciation for the contributions and sacrifices that veterans have endured for our safety,” eighth grade student Cate Simpson said.

Anthony Yannarella, veteran of the Marines and the Army who is now in his first year teaching 7th grade science at GSMS, shared his experience in the armed forces.

”There’s a downside to going into combat. The downside is, some people don’t come back,” Yannarella said.

Yannarella said that after being trained as Marines infantry, he didn’t have the chance to fulfill his training in a conflict before he got out. So he signed up for the Army in 2009, and trained as a non-commissioned officer, graduating just in time for the 2011 surge of forces in Afghanistan.

Though Yannarella got his chance to be in a combat zone with the 279th infantry of Delta Company. Yannarella said the hardest medical issue he had to deal with was shingles. The resulting nerve damage tested his strength, but Yannarella said he would give up unless he was told to. “That’s what I was taught. You don’t quit, you don’t give up,” Yannarella said. “And the most important thing you do in the military is clear the mission.

“That’s why I’m so thankful for you guys,” Yannarella said, addressing the other veterans in the audience. “Before I ever existed, you guys were putting the mission first.”

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