Snow Mountain Ranch hosted 320 Veterans and their families and friends for the Annual Grand County Veterans Day Breakfast on Monday morning.
"They are a special group of Americans," declared Duane Dailey, Grand County's Veterans Service Officer and host for the event.
Granby police officer Wayne Schafer - who served in the Marine Corps - led the gathering in the Pledge of Allegiance to start off the honors.
Special recognition was given to retired Navy Master Chief, Davey Jones, for his five years of service as the outgoing Grand County Veterans Service Officer. Nancy Stuart was honored for her support and advocacy to the Veterans of Grand County through her position of county commissioner.
The Granby Elementary Minnesingers sang their honor to the Veterans and the program was closed with "America the Beautiful" sung by Middle Park High School student Juliet Shams.
For the first time since World War II, there was no candidate in this year's presidential race that had served in the armed forces of our country. After hearing candidates and pundits throw out the words "service" and "love for the United States," over and over, I questioned - who is a true patriot?
Visiting with the Veterans at Monday's breakfast I decided to find out what motivated these men and women to serve in our nation's armed forces with the potential of putting themselves in harm's way.
Todd Monday joined the Army two days after turning 18 - serving 1975-1978. He made the decision to join along with a high school friend. Monday was dropped off at the bus station by his mom.
"It grew me up fast, taught me responsibility," Monday said.
Monday's older brother fought in Vietnam and was shunned when he came home. Monday witnessed the disrespect his brother endured, but it didn't hinder his decision.
"I loved the country before I served, but I loved it even more after I served," Monday said. People thank him now when they hear he is a Veteran and he feels respected.
A 23-year-old active duty Marine I spoke with came from a military family. His father and uncles all served in different branches and it was inherent that he wanted to serve his country.
This soldier applied to the military academies and was denied entrance. He altered his pursuit and graduated from the University of Colorado from the Platoon Leaders Course as a commissioned officer.
"It was my calling, my niche," he said. "I now have a deeper respect for how the country works. I feel like I have a definite connection."
About to be drafted into the Vietnam War, Gary Stanfill chose a "Delayed Entry."
"I knew my number was up so I joined under this program. It signed me up for one extra year that I would not have served if I had been drafted, but it delayed my entry and I was able to complete my college education," Stanfill said.
Stanfill served in the Army from 1970-1972 and then re-enlisted in 1974-1978.
"My friends and I always thought about serving our country," Stanfill said. "All of our fathers served in World War II. My faith in God and always wanting to do the right thing," he said was his motivation.
Serving as a Navy pilot from 1961-1971 - The Vietnam Era - Jim Jamison was assigned to the Cuban Missile Crisis. He flew maritime patrols over Cuba taking photographs of disguised, Russian fishing boats, which were carrying missiles into Cuba.
Jamison lost numerous "very, very good friends" in the Vietnam War including three young men who were ushers at his wedding.
"If I had the opportunity I would do it again," Jamison said.
When I asked him how he felt about our country after serving during the most controversial wars in our nation's history Jamison said, "I loved it more."
Every Veterans Day I have called my father Jack Kohl who served in the Navy during World War II and thanked him for serving our country. My father passed away on May 11 and on Monday I felt a painful end to the traditional phone call.
I heard my Dad tell the story many times of his aircraft carrier, the USS Bismarck Sea, being sunk by kamikaze pilots in the South Pacific and surviving on a life raft in the ocean for 36 hours. Recalling the experience brought tears to his eyes.
My father's patriotism followed him into his old age. Every morning he would open his front door, step out on his porch and fly his American flag. The wind in the mountains where he lived in Green Mountain Falls snapped off the flag's stick. He cut the brush off of a broom, and stapled the flag to the broom handle so he could continue his ritual.
The flag now stands in the corner of his Grandson's bedroom.
These Patriots are never invited to the late night talk shows. Their names are never thrown around on the evening political gab fests.
They are wounded physically and psychologically; they lose friends and fellow servicemen.
This group doesn't have to be told to remove their hats at the presentation of our flag at parades and sporting events.
Some have come home to find out the girl that promised she would wait for their return has moved on with someone else.
They leave home quietly and return quietly, many struggling to find their place again where they left off.
They carry on as Patriots do - someone who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.
It was a privilege to have breakfast with these true Patriots.