Kenneth “Howdy” Davis sat Thursday behind the spotlight at the Moffat County High School auditorium.
Davis, a 73-year-old Craig resident, remained still as he listened to the words of his fellow veterans ring throughout the auditorium, their message heard by hundreds of MCHS students.
As the words, themes and various messages of the Veterans Day service echoed in the halls of the auditorium, strong emotions began to build inside Davis, he said.
“If they could only see into our souls, these people here today,” said Davis, who served in the Navy from 1956 to 1972. “We are so honored.”
Davis said he holds each year’s Veterans Day dear.
“It makes it all seem worthwhile,” he said.
But, this year’s Veterans Day took on special meaning for Davis.
His grandson, Dylan Correia, will leave Nov. 19 for Alaska to start active duty in the Army.
Davis was able to spend the day with Correia, who was in attendance at the MCHS ceremonies — something he said he wouldn’t soon take for granted.
“This is one of the most memorable days of my life,” Davis said.
Correia said he was proud to stand next to his grandfather throughout the half-day of events.
The 19-year-old Correia said he has a deep and growing respect for his grandfather and his military service. He said he was well aware of the special meaning this year’s Veterans Day has for his grandfather.
Correia said Thursday might be the last Veterans Day he can spend with his grandfather for quite a while.
“It is kind of emotional for me, too,” he said. “… Being with my grandpa for Veterans Day, I just don’t think I am going to have another when I am home. It’ll be a shock if I do.”
Correia, who spent part of his youth in Craig and graduated from Grand Junction High School in 2010, said part of his respect for his grandfather comes from trying to carry on a family legacy of military service.
“I am just trying to put myself in a position to where I did that same thing for my grandkids or my children,” he said.
Veterans Day is quickly becoming one of Correia’s favorite holidays, he said.
“We do need to honor our military more often,” he said. “I don’t think enough people support the military.”
Services at MCHS included several presentations from members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 and American Legion Post 62 about the history and meaning of Veterans Day, a flag folding and narration, and an explanation of the history and meaning of taps, among others.
For Davis, one of the highlights of the services was the Center Stage women’s choir group performing the song, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” while dressed in the uniforms of the various branches of the military.
“My heart goes out to them — what a tribute,” Davis said with a laugh. “I’ll tell you, boy, this was just phenomenal. As they were leaving here, I tried to tell every one of them what a great job they did.
“This is the highlight of my life, I swear to God.”
At about 11 p.m., members of the American Legion and VFW performed a 21-gun salute outside of the school’s auditorium.
One of the veterans participating in the salute was Craig resident Al Shepherd.
Shepherd, 79, who served in the Army from 1951 to 1959, said the emotion such a tribute evokes is simple, yet powerful.
“It just makes you feel proud that you are honoring the veterans that have passed away,” he said. “I hope somebody will do it for me someday.”
After the 21-gun salute, the veterans joined the audience of high school students for a slideshow of some of the current and past veterans from Craig and Moffat County.
As the photos progressed, showing face after face of area veterans, the crowd burst into applause and cheers at familiar names.
And although the slideshow didn’t show all the area’s veterans, Shepherd said he was pleased with the tribute.
“I was proud to recognize some of the World War II veterans in that group,” he said. “In fact, some of the young kids (said), ‘Oh, that was my grandfather in there.’”
The cheers from both the audience and veterans exemplified what MCHS principal Thom Schnellinger called “opening up a communication between the generations.”
“I believe, to a certain extent, that the kids are detached from the service that young people have provided over the years,” he said. “I don’t believe they understand exactly how much these guys have given up.”
After the slideshow, the lights came on and the veterans rose to their feet amid roars of applause and cheers from the students.
The students’ standing ovation didn’t come as a surprise to Schnellinger, he said.
“I think this becomes very emotional for them and they begin to understand the service these guys have given,” he said.
Shepherd echoed the sentiment.
“That makes us feel good, to be recognized as veterans,” he said.