PUEBLO — A World War II veteran received a standing ovation from students in Pueblo on Thursday.
He was one of many honored at the Pueblo County High Veterans Day ceremony.
Hundreds of students came together to celebrate and honor the sacrifices these heroes have made. One World War II veteran who attended the ceremony told News 5, this meant the world to him.
"This is a veteran's town. It really is," said World War II veteran Sam Stephens.
After his service in World War II. Veteran Sam Stephens packed his family in a car and hit the road toward California. But instead ended up in Pueblo.
"This is home to me," says Stephens. "Made a living here, raised a family here, and I have an awful large family."
He settled down in the Home of Heroes as a hero himself. It is estimated that between the years 2017-2021, approximately 12,587 veterans live in Pueblo County according to the United States Census Bureau.
The coined term "Home of Heroes" comes from a speech given by Colorado Representative Scott McInnis at the time, about the unique nature of Pueblo hosting four Medal of Honor recipients that call(ed) the city home.
Stephens has since had children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren who attend Pueblo County High School.
The packed ceremony featured a real 21-gun salute, a performance by the school choir, and speeches from several of our nation's heroes honoring veterans across Pueblo.
Teachers say they were impressed with how students were captivated and respectful.
"It really shows how everyone truly cares, and it means a lot to them as well," said Quincy Arellano a junior at the school.
When it came time to thank the veterans for their service. It was enough to drive Stephens to tears
"I cried. I did! I had to wipe my eyes," said Stephens about the event. "What I've seen here today. A thousand people stood up and applauded me. That doesn't happen very much to anybody. It made me real proud to be a World War II veteran"
He's helped inspire three JROTC Cadets all of whom say they plan to enlist in the military when they graduate, and who are happy to see a community rally around veterans.
"I find it important to honor our veterans as a community because, although they may not have given the ultimate sacrifice, they were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for our country," said Hunter Bechaver a senior at Pueblo County High.
School organizers say they hope students can take away a full understanding of the sacrifices veterans make for our country and that they're already excited for next year's ceremony.
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