On Veterans Day, 200,000 veterans and active-duty military personnel from across the country will be recognized for their service with a handwritten tribute card. Each card features a patriotic image, an inspirational quote and a message from a youth in Colorado.
The tribute card is one of the many ways that Denver-based program, "Saluting America – Honoring Military Service: Past & Present," engages and educates students in Colorado about citizenship, patriotism, Americanism and the sacrifices made by veterans and active-duty military servicemembers.
"The program instills appreciation for America with youth today, and it draws out the real American values," said Past National Commander Tom Bock of Aurora, Colo. "I like the idea that these kids have an opportunity to develop an appreciation for those serving our country. Some of the cards are humorous and others are very sentimental."
The Department of Colorado partnered with Saluting America three years ago, volunteering with its tribute card and classroom visitation activities.
"We (Colorado Legionnaires) go to the participating schools, we talk to children, remembering our experiences and relating our feelings about our country," Bock said. "This program fits because most of the schools want to do something for Veterans Day week. So not only do we help the kids, but they help us because they help restore our faith in the next generations."
Saluting America’s first year two years using the tribute cards, 2011 and 2012, resulted in the creation of more than 50,000 cards by students, faculty and staff. This year, eight schools — grade school to high school — in Colorado created 200,000 cards. The students will either personally give their cards to a military family member or friend, or have the school, a Legionnaire or another organization distribute them.
In the program’s first year, 20,000 remaining tribute cards were given to the Department of Colorado to distribute. Bock said they sent cards to department members and military bases around the area. The remaining cards will once again be distributed throughout the year by the participating schools, the Legion, as well as by program sponsors such as Frontier Airlines.
Frontier Airlines’ crew will hand veterans and servicemembers a card when they board the plane and give youth on the flight the opportunity to write a message on a card.
"The Saluting America program attaches youth to the real-world sacrifices made by veterans and servicemembers," said Pat Smith, Department of Colorado adjutant. "The program sends a good message that there are people who care about them (youth) and their freedoms, and that helps the kids understand what they (veterans and servicemembers) are doing when they put the uniform on."
A Legionnaire will present each of the eight schools who participated in the tribute card activity this year with a framed print of "The American’s Creed." Another activity of Saluting America is the tribute contest where students express the values they learned from participating in the program through an essay, video or art.
"As educators, we have a purpose, a goal, a role in society of really educating those people who will take over the United States," said Dr. Scott Siegfried, associate superintendent of the Denver Cherry Creek school district, in a press release. "To lead our country well, they have to understand what’s happened."
Siegfried was one of several Colorado educators who developed the Saluting America program to "raise awareness about America’s cherished values and the honors and sacrifices made by our nation’s active military and veterans."
During the Legion’s National Convention in Houston in August, the Convention Committee on Americanism passed Resolution 5, commending Saluting America for its "educational curriculum and school activities that it offers to instill in youth a sense of patriotism and awareness of America’s cherished values, and honors the sacrifices made by our nation’s active military."
"The American Legion is at the forefront of educating our youth with our Boys State and Girls State programs," Bock said. "Now, we have Saluting America to affect even more youth. It’s a powerful program."
Visit www.salutingamerica.org for more information on how your department, district or post can partner with a local school to implement the program.