During the past six years, Veterans Day has become a special occasion at West Middle School.
The day begins with a red, white and blue show of support for veterans and active duty servicemen and women. Students who are West WEB Leaders, a group of student mentors, line the streets outside the school cheering and waving American flags as students, staff and honored guests arrive for Veterans Day celebrations.
The school hosts two, standing-room-only assemblies honoring past and present members of the U.S. military. Students stand and servicemen and women salute as the colors are presented. Tears well up in many eyes as the National Anthem is performed and the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. The West choir, band and orchestra perform other patriotic tunes and students and staff alike share heartfelt words of thanks to those who have served and sacrificed for our freedom.
But West’s support for our nation’s heroes continues long after Veterans Day. As they have in years past, students in West’s AVID classes have been collecting new socks for veterans who receive services at the Denver Veterans Hospital. In addition, the school took on a new project this year, which has proven to be very popular with the student body.
West is raising money to pay for an English Retriever puppy that will become a service dog to a veteran with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The school is selling “dog tags” that say “WEST loves USA” to raise enough money to pay for the puppy, two years of health insurance for the animal and training for the puppy and the veteran.
“The two of them go through the training together so the bonding is much greater,” said veteran Frank Griggs, who is with a non-profit called Veteran’s Puppy for Live Organization, the group West is working with.
Griggs says having a puppy forces a veteran to focus on something other than his or her PTSD, a condition that has an isolating effect.
“The puppies give them the ability to move back into society so they can be with people again. They’re amazing animals,” Griggs said.
Three mature service dogs and one puppy in training joined their owners for the West Veterans Day celebration. In January, via video, students will get to meet the puppy and the veteran their project is supporting.