Many area veterans attended and were honored with choir and brass band performances, video clips, poems, a color guard and speeches by students.
Five empty chairs represented POW or MIAs from all branches of the military.
“All Americans should never forget the brave men and women who serve for the cause of freedom,” said student Danny Jimenez.
Student Sierra Schwartz reminded the crowd that because of veterans and the military, we all enjoy America’s freedoms.
“It is the soldier, not the reporter, that has given us the freedom of the press; it is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech; it is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate,” she said. “We honor your sacrifice to ensure our own safety, and it is our duty to honor you for putting your life on the line for us.”
Student speaker Lilliana AuClaire said the “U.S. military is a separate dream from the world we often take for granted and that the men and women who sacrificed so much for others may not be able to enjoy what they helped create.”
“Coming home with wounds and missing friends is something only the bravest of us will ever experience,” she said. “What are you willing to give up?”
Veterans got up to tell stories of their service, and expressed gratitude for the recognition and the tradition Dolores has for the Veterans Day ceremony.
“Veterans walk among us that you may not realize, they are your restaurant owner, nurse, grocer, banker, barber, police officer, child’s teacher, plumber,” said David Johnson. “Their service is why we walk free.”
Vietnam Vet Dale Akin attended the ceremony for the first time.
“Thank you, Dolores High School,” he said. “This brightened my day, and I hope you continue this every year.”
Another veteran shared a personal story of gratitude. One day in 1983, he said, a student came to his door asking for money for a trip to Washington, D.C.
“Why are you going?” he asked. “To visit The Wall and trace my dad’s name,” the student replied.
“I emptied my pockets, and it reminded me of my father, a World War II veteran, who used to say, ‘Those who wait at home while their love ones fight also serve their country.’”
Veteran Sandra Vallencia said she carried on the family tradition of serving in the military, and it was a good decision.
“I signed up for the ROTC, and I never looked back,” she said. “It was the beginning of my wonderful journey through life. I look back now, and I would not change a thing. The little girl was gone, and in her place is a strong confident woman.”
Musicians and singers from the secondary and high school performed a series of songs, including military songs for each service branch, then “Hymn to the Fallen,” “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and “The Light Eternal.”
Student speakers and announcers included Zenda Olsen, Sarah Vass, Danny Jimenez, Tristan Colgate, Joe Reynolds, Sierra Schwartz, Lillian AuClaire, James Cochrane and Sarah Cochrane.
The students urged the audience to thank a veteran throughout the year.
“Offer a simple thank-you and hand shake to show you appreciate what they have done,” AuClaire said. “Each time you hear the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,’ think not of the comforts of life, but of those who fought to keep it that way.”