A Taste of Legacy in the Veterans Association

VA Sports Day hosted in Prescott

A gentle breeze blew through the valley as the afternoon of Oct. 20, 2019 as many people arrived at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Center to see the start of VA Sports Day. The crowd included people from all walks of life, including veterans and their families, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) members, nurses, and old friends alike. Smiles were abound as some took to the volleyball court, others partook in tennis, and others still sat at the picnic tables and talked about whatever came to mind.

The event proper began with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University sophomore Alexandra Santalov singing the national anthem as the colors were presented. In terms of ERAU representation, there were a total of three organizations volunteering at the event, as described by James Embro. First was Arnold Air Society (AAS),  second was Silver Wings (SW), which consists of 50% civilian members and 50% ROTC members, and last but not least, the Honor Corps handled the aforementioned tasks of presenting the colors and singing the national anthem.

After the proceedings were well underway, food was served. Hamburgers and hot dogs were the main dishes, with side dishes ranging from chile to coleslaw to chips. As lunch was being served to the guests, AAS member Danielle Mangila noted that her favorite part about volunteering was “having the opportunity to be in a closer environment to speak with veterans.” She juxtaposed the event’s atmosphere with the one often seen at the university, where she finds it hard to approach veterans seen in passing. As she soaked in said atmosphere, she also reflected that she “likes that ROTC is super involved in the community. [She] likes seeing people around [her] age be involved and motivated.”

As the sporting events began to rev up, a veteran Kenneth Cole had this to say: “Outdoor events are always special…I love the community and seeing guys come out to do their part.” As a resident of the nearby VA hospital, he said this about the establishment: “The whole system is okay with me. I can’t say enough about the staff, they make the facility special.” He also thought it was fantastic to see ROTC people joining in and volunteering, believing that they were all down a very good career path. 

Once Cole had finished his thoughts, veteran Kent Hoefd added on to what he said. “I believe every student should go into two years of service after high school.” When asked about why he thought that way, he said that it does young people good to know what the meaning of sacrifice is. He also reminisced on “feeling the weight of the past in a graveyard with World War I and II soldiers,” which he concluded was an unmatched experience in his life. He ended his talk by repeating his favorite quote from “Saving Private Ryan”, which he leads his life by: “Earn this.”

Even after the festivities died down a bit, there was a strong sense of comradery in the air. The welcoming smiles seemed never ending, and the food was plentiful. The veterans seemed to take great joy in seeing all the people helping make the event possible. In Cole’s own words, “Everyone involved has been real helpful.” There’s no doubt that the event was a success and that many will be looking forward to when it comes around next year.