At Monday’s Upper School Town Hall, Colorado Academy Junior Helen Blake organized a celebration for Veterans Day. Helen wrote to me last year, wanting to do something to raise awareness about the service of our nation’s veterans. She told me, “The veteran community here is very strong. My father served three tours in Iraq and two tours in Asia during his 20 years as a United States Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier Jet Pilot. Veterans Day is extremely important to my family and me, and I think it would benefit the student body to learn more about our all-volunteer force.” We couldn’t agree more. Working with Alumni Director Sue Burleigh, Helen connected with two alumni, Colin Gumm ’94 and Austin Carpenter ’05, who spoke to Upper School students and faculty two days before Wednesday’s national holiday.
Army Sergeant Colin Gumm served in Kosovo and Iraq. Colin has spoken to my War on Terror class about his experience, and it was wonderful to have him back with a larger audience. He enlisted in the infantry after going to the University of Colorado and served in Kosovo in 2001. Colin was called back into service and deployed to Iraq in 2005. He served in psychological warfare operations. Colin noted the value of living in different parts of the world. He observed that Veterans Day has changed over the years. It was established during a time when there was a greater sense of pride for those who serve in the military. He said for him, the meaning of the day is to understand the sense of service and the kinship he feels with other service members.
“It’s a time to say ‘thank you’ for those willing to risk their lives and safety and to fulfill a job on behalf of the nation,” he told us. Colin shared aspects of his service and noted the challenges that many veterans face from years of constant deployment in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Corporal Austin Carpenter also served in the Army and was part of the Old Guard at Arlington National Cemetery. Its formal name is the Presidential Salute Battery (GUNS Platoon) Headquarters Company. He was part of an artillery unit that honors dignitaries and high-ranking officers by firing howitzers at funeral services. Austin explained the different meaning of Memorial Day, for honoring men and women who gave their lives, compared to Veterans Day, which honors all who have served. Austin said that Veterans Day reminds him of the honor and duty of those servicemen and women. He pointed out to students the many different types of service that one can do in the military. He said that he “loves to celebrate that he has brothers and sisters across the globe.” Austin emphasized that less than 1% of Americans serve in the military, and he believes that is worthy of celebration.
It was great to hear students say “thank you” and ask questions. I want to personally thank Helen and Sue for bringing this event to our community. And, I say “thank you,” to all of our nation’s veterans for their service.