Years ago, when Norwood’s Nancy Wells was teaching school in Nebraska, Veterans Day was celebrated countywide, and small-town communities came together for parades, guest speakers and a luncheon for kids.
In 1999, when Wells began teaching in Norwood, she teamed up with Karen Gauvey to plan Veterans Day on Wright’s Mesa. Back then, the kids were usually out of school for the holiday, but often they didn’t really understand why.
For nearly two decades, the Norwood School Veterans Day program has continued. Wells has since retired, but still helps plan the festivities.
“After 19 years, we hope that it is an important tradition in Norwood, and we want to get the word out,” she said.
This year, Bobby Reeder will be the keynote speaker during the event Monday from 10-10:50 a.m. in the high school gym.
Reeder served in Vietnam, and Wells said getting Vietnam War veterans to speak about their experience has always been one of her goals. Previously, the school has featured one other speaker from the Vietnam War. Wells said it’s been difficult to recruit those who served there, because of the controversy that existed about that war and the way the veterans were treated when they returned.
In the past, Norwood School has featured the following veterans: Terry Knight from the Ute Tribal Council, R.J. Kaberlick of Montrose, Jim Younge of Norwood, "Uncle Del" Reed of Colona, Vince Egan of Norwood, Johnnie Stevens of Telluride, Ray Rose of Montrose, Sheldon Smith of Norwood, Bob Conder of Norwood, Mike Adams of Norwood, Ernie Jauregui of Norwood, Jerry Pike of Norwood, Shaun and Regina Howell of Norwood, Vivian Antonik of Norwood, Joe Bowman of Norwood, Clay Armstrong of Telluride, Ann Hemme of Norwood, Heather and Travis Hardy of Norwood and Jon Roberts of Montrose.
Wells said she now aims to get speakers that people know personally, like former Norwood School graduates or other local people. Many from the San Miguel Sherriff’s Office have also participated.
Over the years, sometimes the local Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts troops have presented the colors; when the school had a band, it also played. Stacey Jensen and Ernie Marolf have also performed.
These days the Veterans Day assembly is not mandatory. Students can attend if they wish. If their personal or religious beliefs are contradictory, they may remain in class. Wells said she does include a prayer each year — but it’s not for war.
All veterans in the community are welcome to attend Norwood School’s event next week, as well as the school’s lunch that day.
Wells said she knows several people in Norwood who have served. She thinks roughly 35 of her former students have joined the U.S. military since she began teaching.
High school principal Perri Gipner said the assembly remains an important tradition.
“The assembly is something that we do for the community to honor those who have served or are serving in our military,” she said. “We feel it's an important part of our civic responsibility and brings old and young together to honor members of our community.”