Emotions ran high Wednesday during a Veterans Day assembly at Durango High School, where students honored men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Members of the student council emceed the half-hour heartfelt event featuring performances from the DHS choir, DHS band and a presentation of the Missing Man Ceremony.
11 a.m.: Veterans Day Parade on Main Avenue in downtown Durango
Noon-3 p.m.: Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 Open House at 1550 Main Avenue. Burger and hot dogs will be served, and the event is open to the public.
3-6 p.m.: American Legion Post 28 Open House at 878 East Second Ave.
This year’s keynote speaker was Navy veteran Melinda Michael, who provided a powerful and honest speech as to what Veterans Day means to former service members across the nation.
She said she spoke with veterans prior to giving her speech to gain a broader perspective as to why people serve. They told her it was to protect the U.S. Constitution, to obtain Veterans Affairs benefits and to learn a trade or a skill.
“When I was in boot camp, we quickly learned that we cannot truly appreciate freedom until it’s taken away,” Michael said. “Something we don’t really think about much in our day-to-day life.”
Some military families discourage younger generations from serving, she said.
“I say, decide what’s best for you in your future,” she said, referencing the many programs military services offer to students to understand whether it is the right path for them.
She added that regardless of what students do, they should always stand up for what they believe is right.
She took a moment to address veterans’ suicide and referenced the suicide prevention hotline.
“You don’t have to be a veteran to call. And you can call for someone else,” she said.
According to data from the 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, the average number of veteran suicides per day rose from 16.4 in 2001 to 16.8 in 2020.
“We have slogans and hotlines but we must be vigilant and aware of cries for help,” Michael said.
DHS student Lorelei Hassel gave a passionate speech about what it meant growing up with a father who is a veteran.
“I can stand here today because of their sacrifice. The sacrifice that leaves many without fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sisters, brothers, daughters or sons,” Hassle said. “My father served seven years in the Navy and I’m really lucky that he came home because some children are not (as lucky).”
Army veteran and DHS Assistant Principal Rachel Colsman said she has family members who served in every branch of the military.
“I grew up learning the history of the military from both my grandfathers,” Colsman said. “They told stories of their time serving, but when they did, it was to instill in me the meaning of the service, sacrifice and freedom that comes at the cost of military service.”
Members of the DHS student council reflected on what the assembly meant to them.
DHS senior Molly Martinez said her brother served in the Navy.
“It's super important to always remember the sacrifice that they made for our country,” Martinez said.