Derek Chen-Becker and his two sons didn't have to search very far to find the perfect volunteer to participate in the Veterans Day celebration at High Plains Elementary School.
Newell Moy, a former Air Force lieutenant and World War II vet, lives across the same street as the family. The decorated former pilot had already interacted with the Chen-Becker boys, Dylan and Dean, relating stories gleaned from a long military career and countless hours of selfless service. When the prospect of a ceremony honoring the community's veterans at their school came up, Moy was an ideal candidate.
"The first thing they thought of was to ask Newell to participate, because they're so proud of him," said Derek Chen-Becker, who led the Boy Scouts troop during the High Plains Elementary Veterans Day event on Nov. 11. "Newell has shared stories with them, and when they flew the B-17 over Centennial Airport, we actually had the opportunity to go over and Newell gave us a tour. They're excited to be involved."
Decked in his Air Force uniform, Moy joined more than 20 fellow veterans on the stage in the High Plains Elementary auditorium for a ceremony that featured a blend of history and tribute. Veterans of World War 2 shared the spotlight with service members from wars in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. High Plains fifth-graders delivered detailed presentations about the history of U.S. military involvement across the globe, and a crowd of kindergarteners proudly sang "The Star Spangled Banner."
It all played out for a capacity crowd composed of students, staff, parents, community members and special guests. Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Harry Bull and Associate Superintendent Scott Siegfried watched as veterans of different ages and backgrounds took their turns approaching the stage. Each walked across the room, spurred by deafening cheers from kindergarteners and staff members alike. Toward the end of the procession, High Plains Principal Derek Mullner announced the arrival of a very special guest.
Drew Dix, a former Green Beret who received the Medal of Honor for his bravery on the battlefield during the Vietnam War, made an unannounced appearance before traveling to Thunder Ridge Middle School later that day.
Dix offered words about the value of honor, integrity and hard work, and the roughly two dozen vets who watched him from the stage seemed to personify that message. They were relatives of High Plains students, they were their friends, neighbors and in-laws. For all their diverse backgrounds, every vet on the stage shared a similar story of sacrifice and commitment.
"This has been very special," said Cody Silvernagel, a former E-4 Army specialist who served in Afghanistan. "We share a lot of common interests as vets, and it's important to talk to the community and get away from the obvious questions."