By Donald Montoya (SMDC/ARSTRAT)December 13, 2011
PEYTON, Colo. -- On a cold Monday morning in the first week of December when the temperature registered 4 above zero, the leadership from the Army's 1st Space Brigade proceeded to the Peyton High School gymnasium from their headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. Their mission was not dealing with 'space-based' capabilities, but rather to take part in the school's 12th Annual Veteran's Breakfast on Dec. 5.
Col. Eric P. Henderson, commander of the 1st Space Brigade, and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas L. Eagan were this year's guest speakers.
According Mike Schrage, civics/economics teacher at Peyton High School and this year's event sponsor, "(The students') goal is to not only provide recognition and respect to the participants, but to improve generational awareness with our young men and women."
Combining the student resources of the Peyton School District, the program saluted local veterans and service members with a Boy Scout color guard, patriotic songs by the high school band, student poems marking the occasion, and one of the most unique renditions of the National Anthem ever performed by local kindergarteners. This was in addition to the students cooking and serving a full breakfast to veterans, service members, and family members in attendance.
"The theme this year - 'All gave some, and some gave all' - has made an impact in my life this year," said high school student Deanna Smith, mistress of ceremonies. "Even if a person only served for a year they still helped to defend my freedoms in America. Also it's not just the veterans who gave something."
Smith alluded to the family members in the audience who also gave by saying, "They have let their sons, daughters, husband, wives, daddies and mommies serve our country and protect those things we take for granted everyday."
"For this I cannot thank you enough. When I think of the entire honor, dedication, and bravery in this room my heart stops beating. Without you none of this would be possible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart on this cold day. And thank you to all the veterans, the families, and everyone in the community for coming out to support our event."
Following Smith, guest speakers Eagan and Henderson addressed the audience who sat at neatly decorated tables in the gym.
"The service members we honor today came from all walks of life, but they share several fundamental qualities," said Eagan.
"They possess courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty and integrity. All qualities needed to serve a cause larger than oneself. Many did not ask to leave their homes and fight in distant battlefields. They didn't go to war because they loved fighting. They were called to be part of something bigger than themselves. They were ordinary people who responded in extraordinary ways in extreme times. They rose to the nation's call because they wanted to protect a nation which has given them -- us -- so much in life."
After going from table to table spending time with several veterans from the Vietnam War and one Pearl Harbor survivor, Henderson walked through the crowd and spoke.
"I'm happy to be with you here this morning," he said. "But I'm even happier that I am having breakfast with my neighbors, my fellow veterans, and people in the community who are important. I can't say anything that hasn't been said before, but if it hasn't been said to you, then let me say it - Thank You. Thank you for your service."
"We are an all-volunteer force. We were offered a choice. The men amongst me today did not. And I think that was pointed out that when you were told to go you went and you answered the call. And I'm grateful."
"It does my heart good to see young people such as these who want to take time out to make sure that people are recognized for serving this nation."
Henderson closed his speech by performing an impromptu re-enlistment of Sgt. Nathan Chapa, an air defender with the 1st Space Brigade, in front of an appreciative audience of veterans, family members, and students.
Both Henderson and Eagan were presented original pieces of artwork done by high school student Jessica Bangs.
The breakfast festivities came to a close with a cheerleading display from the school's Cheer Team as sixth grade students engaged veterans and service members in the audience with numerous questions.
Alexis Weiler, a junior at Peyton High School, summed up the morning's events by saying, "I think I speak for all the students and teachers in acknowledging that we were very, very, impressed with Col. Henderson and Command Sgt. Maj. Eagan. The colonel's speech was amazing! He managed to include all of the members of the audience -- students, veterans, and their spouses.
"I have the greatest respect for and I'm very proud of the 1st Space Brigade," said Weiler, who is the daughter of Chief Warrant Officer Jon Weiler assigned to the S2 section of the brigade.