Rain did force the ceremony to be moved from the usual outdoor location at Veterans Memorial Park in Loveland to inside the St. Columban School gymnasium. That made it more special for the veterans when all the students from K-8 packed the gym to honor them.
“This is the first time we’ve had all the kids,” said Bob Bronner Jr. a U.S. Navy veteran who has attended the St. Columban Veterans Day ceremony for several previous years. “This is even better with all the kids here.”
Bronner is one of three sons of Bob Bronner Sr., a WWII veteran who attended as recently as 2019 at the age of 96 years old. Bob Jr. is a veteran of Viet Nam, along with his brother Ron who served in the U.S. Army and was also in attendance today. Rick Bronner was not in attendance today, but has attended the ceremony in previous years along with his brothers. Other area veterans in attendance today included Tom Vormwald, Jerry Wilson, Dan Johnson, Jake Salamon and Gene Warnecke. All served during the Viet Nam war with the exception of the youngest among them Loveland Police Officer Jake Salamon who served in the U.S. Navy. All stood and were recognized with a standing ovation from the packed gym including the nearly 500 St. Columban K-8 students.
“I was in San Diego for two years and then I was out on Oahu, Pearl Harbor for two years with the U.S. Navy,” said Salamon.
Being honored by all the St. Columban students was special for him.
“It means the world,” Salamon said. “It’s one of those things. We hope veterans are not forgotten. It’s hard sometimes when you get out. It’s good to see community support.”
Salamon recognized the opportunity to share a message with the kids while also receiving an impactful message from them.
“Hopefully we can keep reminding the kids what it’s all about and the sacrifices made,” he said. “What stood out was the prayers; bringing God back and trying to make veterans feel like people . . . it’s special. There is a sacrifice these veterans make.”
The ceremony held some extra special meaning for St. Columban 8th grade student council member Ansley Warnecke. First of all, she offered the opening remarks for the ceremony. She also led the entire student council as they each recited a part of a poem recognizing the service and sacrifice of our military veterans for our “great nation. Her role as a sort of emcee included introducing the keynote speaker Loveland’s vice Mayor Ted Phelps.
“It was very special because we got to thank them and to honor them for stuff they did for us,” said Warnecke. “We could just pay it back to them through this ceremony.”
Maybe more importantly for Ansley was the fact her grandfather Gene Warnecke was one of the veterans in attendance.
“It was very nice because I never got to share Veterans Day with him,” Warnecke said. “It was nice to do that today. It was very special.”
The ceremony included the special keynote address from Ted Phelps, Loveland vice Mayor who has attended the ceremony in the past, but was speaking to the kids for the first time. He would only humbly claim to be filling in for Mayor Kathy Bailey at her request because she was unable to attend this year. He filled her shoes nicely speaking of the importance of paying tribute to all the men and women veterans of the U.S. military for their service and sacrifice. He appreciated the opportunity to talk to the kids and veterans.
“It’s a great audience,” said Phelps. “I’m honored to be able to give tribute to those who have served and protected our country. For the kids, there is not time too early to begin instilling in them love of country and recognizing those who make the ultimate sacrifice. I’m privileged to be able to be here and do that today.”
It is not lost on him that Veterans Day is so close to Thanksgiving Day and Ted Phelps purposely played on the theme of gratitude. His speech included asking the students to remember just eight words and to share those words with veterans, not just on Veterans Day, but at every opportunity.
Those words: Thank you for your service to our country!
It was a message well delivered, well received by the students, and much appreciated by the veterans in attendance.
“I was honored because I felt like I could just say thank and it meant a lot to them,” said Grace McDonald, 8th grader and student council member. “I just enjoyed doing it. It was fun.”
The ceremony included the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, a special prayer offered by St. Columban Student Council member Andrew Parise. Again, there was a very special moment when all the veterans were called to the front of the room to be recognized.
Each stepped proudly forward when the war they served in was called out. The veterans received a standing ovation as they made their way back to their seats.
“It felt very patriotic,” said Maggie Worpenberg, student council member. “Everyone was a part of it, even the audience singing along. It just kind of brought everyone together. So it was nice.”
The ceremony was brought to a close with everyone being led by the 7th and 8th grade students in the singing of “She’s a Grand Old Flag”. Final remarks of thanksgiving to all the veterans were offered by St. Columban School principal Mrs. Donna Muchmore. Then all the students personally delivered hand-crafted messages to the veterans as well as Loveland first-responders from the LSFD and LPD. The veterans attending made a lasting impression.
“The veterans, in general, when they all came up,” stood out for 8th grade student council member Maddox Nahrup. “We got to applaud them. It was really great they got to come up here and we got to honor them.”
More on St. Columban School at: https://www.saintcolumbanschool.org