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THE FACE OF THE ‘HOME OF HEROES’ INSPIRES AT PRIDE AND PATRIOTISM
Sixty years after he left District 60 to become a storied part of American military history, Centennial Bulldog Drew Dix returned to a welcome worthy of a hero, joining a grateful community in paying respect to, and showing appreciation for, the selfless efforts of those such as himself who faithfully served.
In its seventh incarnation, Pride and Patriotism once again saw District scholars, from elementary through high school, express their gratitude to those who served – and in many instances continue to serve – in the written word, artistic expression and song.
The literary and artistic creations, and musical performances, reflected this year’s theme, “Commitment to Service.”
“By its very definition, ‘service’ means to give of oneself for the benefit of others with little or no regard to one’s own personal welfare or well-being. That, in a nutshell, defines a veteran,” Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso told the hundreds gathered at Memorial Hall.
Added Tanya Quintana, program director for the Center for American Values, “As the nationally recognized Home of Heroes, this special evening is yet another way for the Pueblo community to come together to honor and celebrate servicemen and women, and encourage our young people to continue exploring what it means to be honorable, to have integrity, and to be patriotic.”
Through a partnership with the Center for American Values, with support from Kaiser Permanente and the D60 Education Foundation, Pride and Patriotism was a colorful and inspiring reminder of the extreme sacrifices made by generous men and women in order to preserve the core values of Honor, Integrity and Patriotism.
It’s those values that form the heart of the Center for American Values, co-founded by Mr. Dix, who proudly stands as Pueblo’s last living Medal of Honor recipient and the face of Pueblo as the “Home of Heroes.”
Just 17 years old, and fresh out of the JROTC program at Centennial, Mr. Dix enlisted in the Army. Later, during his service in the Vietnam War, Mr. Dix went on to become the first enlisted soldier in the Special Forces to earn the prestigious and coveted Medal of Honor.
“It’s good to be back in Colorado and the best hometown in the country,” Mr. Dix said as a wave of heartfelt applause died down. “I’ve been fortunate to have been to a lot of events across the country since I received the Medal of Honor more than 50 years ago. And I have to say that this is a very meaningful event, to see people from my hometown, together – not to honor me, or other veterans – but to be close, and bring their families together, to understand what it means to serve and to be a veteran.”
To be a veteran is to be part of a community whose bond is difficult to put into words.
“I can go and see veterans from Pueblo, in Kansas City, Baltimore or wherever, and we speak the same language,” Mr. Dix continued. “We know what it’s like to make a commitment of sacrifice. Not every veteran has been in combat. That doesn’t make a difference in whether you should be recognized: it’s all veterans that are willing to make that sacrifice.
“To be a veteran is a very special honor that you learn after you’ve spent time with others who feel the same way. It is hard to describe.”
A veteran, Mr. Dix continued, puts service over politics.
“We go above all that,” he said. “We don’t ask if you are a Republican or a Democrat or Independent or what your preference is. You will do anything you can to save that person. That’s what it’s all about: making the right decision.”
Mr. Dix concluded his inspiring presentation with this advice:
“Live everyday with courage. You have a lot of choices to make. Make those choices with a conviction that you’ll stand behind it. Don’t make that choice because someone tells you to. Make it because you believe in it. And if you don’t understand it, it’s up to you to find out what it really means.
“And follow through with anything you start.”
On the Memorial Hall stage, Mr. Dix joined Superintendent Macaluso, Ms. Quintana and Steve Henson – who along with Centennial JROTC Cadet Ciara Reyes hosted the program – in presenting awards to the young writers judged to have the best submissions.
Along with the writers, creative students from schools in the Centennial and Central quadrants joined together to fashion colorful art pieces, which were displayed in the Memorial Hall lobby.
The evening’s musical selections included patriotic pieces by an elementary school choir comprised of vocalists from Bessemer Academy, Columbian, Corwin, Goodnight School, Heritage, Irving and Minnequa.
And while Centennial and Central may be rivals on the Bell Game field, musical performers from the schools joined together for a moving vocal rendition of “In Flanders Field,” a rousing take on John Phillips Sousa’s “Liberty Bell March,” and an electrifying drumline presentation.
Veterans in attendance were recognized by the gallery during a medley of the theme songs associated with the various branches of service.
With retired and current District staffers presenting the National Anthem to open the evening, it was capped the only way it could be: with the elementary and high school performers leading the whole of Memorial Hall in a moving “America the Beautiful.”
TRIBUTE WRITING WINNERS
- 1st Place: Isabella Sanchez, Goodnight School
- 2nd: Emmy Mirshamsi, Fountain
- 3rd: Jenesis Martinez, Highland Park
- 1st: Angeliyah Najera, Franklin School of Innovation
- 2nd: Tyler Gonzales, Morton Elementary
- 3rd: Alice Ratzlaff, Columbian Elementary
- 1st: Enrico Urioste, Risley
- 2nd: Jadin De’Anda, PAA
- 3rd: Camila Rivera Garcia, D60 Online
- 1st: Jordan Alfonso, Central
- 2nd: Olyvia Hernandez, East
- 3rd: Joseph Davis, Central