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Red Rocks Elementary honors those who’ve served

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By Deborah Swearingen

For students at Red Rocks Elementary School, last Friday was a day of remembrance as students, teachers and community members gathered for the school’s annual Veterans Day celebration.

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After a formal flag ceremony with an honor guard posting the flag outside of the school, various veterans stopped by classrooms to share stories of their time in the military.

One such veteran was Red Rocks parent Robert Ryan, who served for 21 years in the U.S. Navy and had two tours of combat. Ryan has made speaking at the Morrison elementary school a Veterans Day tradition and said he typically likes to relate what students are being taught in class to how it might work in the military environment. To tie his message into the social studies lesson, Ryan explained what it might be like to live in the unique places — such as Iceland, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — he did while serving.

In Ryan’s opinion, it’s important to expose children to the veteran community.

“Cause what is a veteran? What do they look like? We think of them always in a uniform, but a veteran is anybody from the janitor to a teacher to a person walking on the street,” he said.

Serving in the military taught Ryan to take life slow, and remembering those lost proved to be the most challenging part of reintegration after combat. Because of this, it’s important for the Navy veteran to show the students what life is actually like for those who serve.

Principal Greg Isaac called Ryan “the real deal.” Frequently, Isaac said, students “get a caricature of service through modern media.” For this reason, like Ryan, he feels strongly about exposing his students to local veterans.

“Schools have the unique opportunity to do things that no other organization can do,” he said. “We can connect people. … When there’s problems in the world, we can model for kids a better way.”

As part of Tim Moore’s fifth-grade class, students were asked to write letters to veterans. Sarah Hanvey, 10, read hers aloud during Friday’s commemorative event.

“Now I understand what I have not noticed all this time. Most people take advantage of being an American and living in this beautiful country of freedom,” Hanvey wrote.

“I hope that you understand how much I value your service, and I hope more people start to realize how much your service means to them and our country,” she added. “ … America’s a puzzle, but it can’t be a picture without people that serve for our country.”