Temperatures didn’t exactly rise with the morning sun Nov. 11. The mercury on thermometers barely touched 7 degrees just before 7 a.m., but even the most bitter of conditions couldn’t keep the veterans of Douglas from the annual gathering on the freshly snow-shoveled sidewalks outside the American Legion.
Regardless of how uncomfortable it may have been to stand outside for more than a few minutes, veterans and their loved ones still came out to witness the raising of the American flag for Veterans Day.
For Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, it was a fitting reminder of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, known for being one of the coldest battles of all time, of which his father, John Anthony Barrasso Jr., was a part.
“He would tell me every day as a kid, ‘John, you should thank God every day you live in America,’” he said. “‘You just can’t believe how fortunate you are.’"
He told the students, who were there as part of the school choir, to heed that very advice – to remember just how fortunate they are.
Barrasso noted just how much he looks forward to the early-morning Veterans Day gathering Douglas puts on year after year.
“There’s no place I would rather be, if I’m in the United States, than in Douglas, Wyoming outside with each and every one of you,” he said.
The only thing that would keep the senator away on such an important day, he said, would be if he was overseas visiting the men and women of Wyoming serving our country. He mentioned the 390 Wyoming soldiers serving, which is the largest deployment from the Cowboy State in the past 10 years.
Barrasso urged those before him to think about those serving 7,000 miles away from home during a time of year where being away from loved ones can be extremely difficult.
“When you go to see them and visit them, thank them for all they are doing for us,” he said. “Make sure they know the people of Wyoming are with them. Remember that their families are here, while they are over there.”
Barrasso remarked that freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not something inherited, but something that must be defended and protected.
BE A PART OF SOMETHING GREAT
Days before Nov. 11, tiny arms, hoisting miniature versions of the American flag, vigorously flailed to and fro in the midst of a sea of red, white and blue.
In what has become a traditional staple for Veterans Day festivities in Douglas, the gymnasium of the Rec Center Nov. 7 was packed to the gills yet again.
Students filled nearly every inch of the expansive space to pay tribute to both active military and veterans, who sat before future generations during the humbling ceremony.
Of those humbled to be there was keynote speaker Timothy Painter, a music teacher for the district but also of the 67th Amy Band, Wyoming Army National Guard, 94th Troop Command.
“I’m incredibly honored and humbled to be wearing this uniform,” he said. “I wouldn’t be up here if it wasn’t for the amazing service members here today.”
Painter’s message to the audience was that of being a part of something bigger than themselves. That didn’t necessarily mean joining the military, but being a valuable member of society wherever life’s choices may steer them.
Earlier this year, Painter embarked on a new personal journey in starting basic training in his new journey into serving with the Army National Guard.
He doesn’t regret his decision.
“I always admired military positions for their skill, discipline and level of pride,” he said. “I could serve my country, still remain a teacher and do so using my passion for music. Most importantly, it was another chance to be a part of something much larger than myself.”
Looking back, had he not taken the leap of faith into the unknown by joining the military, he never would have discovered his true potential, he said.
“Being part of something great truly exemplifies us,” Painter said. “It does not matter who you were before, or where you came from.”
He challenged the students to be a part of greatness, whatever it may be, and to take a leap of faith just as he did in pursuing the right pathway for them personally.
“You only get one life,” he concluded.