New Colorado-Inspired Program Honors Veterans And Active Military

Some 200,000 special “thank you” cards from local schools will be created this Veterans Day for veterans and active military personnel during the inaugural year of “Saluting America – Honoring Military Service: Past & Present”, a Colorado-inspired program that emotionally connects school children with those who sacrifice to keep the nation free.

The eight participating school districts for the 2013-2014 school year are: Adams-Arapahoe 28J (Aurora Public Schools), Cherry Creek 5, Colorado Springs 11, Falcon 49, Pueblo City 60, St. Vrain Valley RE 1J (Longmont area), Custer County School District C-1 (Westcliffe), and Crowley County RE 1J (Ordway).

“The program is simple, and involves several activities that can be easily incorporated into ongoing school activities surrounding Veterans Day,” said Dick Schneider, Program Director of Saluting America. “We are rolling it out in select Front Range school districts this year and plan to expand it next year.”

Modeled after a program originating in Colorado’s Cherry Creek School District, Saluting America educates and instills a strong sense of citizenship, Americanism, service, and sacrifice in America’s youth; raises awareness of America’s cherished values; and honors the sacrifices made by our nation’s active military and veterans.

“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, Cherry Creek’s Assoc. Superintendent. Siegfried is the prime mover behind their highly successful Veterans Week celebration.

“To lead our country well, they have to understand what’s happened,” Siegfried said. “The values, the actions, the behaviors of those who came before us and really put themselves on the line so this could be such a great country.”

The inaugural 2013 Saluting America program is being launched in partnership with The American Legion Department of Colorado, along with major financial support from the Daniels Fund, and additional grants and corporate sponsorships. Plans are already underway to expand Saluting America statewide, regionally, and nationally.

“This is what we stand for,” said Tom Bock, Colorado Veteran and former National Commander of The American Legion. “This is what we believe in. The project hits all four of The American Legion pillars: Veterans, Children, Americanism, and National Defense.”

Nationally, The American Legion’s Americanism Commission has endorsed Saluting America as a top program that Legion Posts, Districts, and State Departments across the country are encouraged to implement in partnership with their local schools.

“The American Legion and its members have a long history of promoting civic literacy and patriotism in America’s youth through a variety of efforts,” said Linda Childears, president and CEO of the Daniels Fund. “We are honored to help expand participation in these programs to students in a number of school districts across the state.”

The program involves a few basic activities and discussion topics: Tribute Cards, a Tribute Contest, and each participating school receives a framed copy of “The American’s Creed” print produced by photographer Nick Del Calzo, creator of the In Honored Glory project, an exclusive collection of iconic images that honor America’s spirit of freedom.

The Tribute Cards that thank veterans and those serving for their sacrifice are a key part of the Saluting America program. Each card contains a patriotic image and quote from a noted American. The Tribute Cards are distributed to kindergarten through high school students, faculty, and staff who write personal “thank you” messages in them. The children and adults personally deliver cards to Veterans and active military members.

Remaining cards will be distributed throughout the year by the schools, The American Legion, other veterans groups, volunteer organizations, and additional program sponsors and partners. One of those sponsors, Frontier Airlines, plans to distribute filled out cards to service personnel and veterans on their flights.

For the Tribute Contest, students create essays, videos, art, or other creative works to express the values they learned about in the program. Each participating school district selects winning entries from four different grade levels – two elementary school, one middle school, and one high school. Winners of each school district’s Tribute Contest will be recognized at a special ceremony December 7, 2013, at the History Colorado Center in downtown Denver.

“The American’s Creed” print features a patriotic fine art photograph of Uncle Sam and a patriotic passage known as “The American’s Creed”, created by William Tyler Page and adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives just after World War One. Key phrases from historic American documents, speeches, and essays were bound together to create an inspirational literary piece of work.

Saluting America will also air an emotional public service announcement 9News and KOAA in Pueblo, as well as in schools, on You Tube, and the program’s website, wwwSalutingAmerica.org. The PSA features featuring Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore A. Giunta of Fort Collins and recently retired Colorado Rockies baseball superstar Todd Helton.

“It offers an opportunity for schools and the children of this country to interact with veterans and active duty men and women, sharing comments and feelings, and allowing all of them to enjoy the freedoms that we have in this country today,” said Viet Nam War Veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Donald Ballard, Treasurer of both the Medal of Honor Foundation and Medal of Honor Society. “It’s the kids’ own feelings and opinions,” he said, referring to the Tribute Cards. “It’s actually educating the kids on who’s paying the price for our freedom, and lets them thank the soldiers in their own personal way.”

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