Nearly 1,000 Valentine’s Day cards made by local schoolchildren were distributed to local veterans last week.
The inaugural Valentines for Veterans event was organized by the Montezuma County Patriots and other community volunteers.
“The response from the students and teachers was truly amazing,” said Patriots leader Sherry Simmons. “The veterans were really touched by all the heartfelt messages. They appreciated the recognition for their service to our country.”
Schools that participated include Mesa, Manaugh, Lewis-Arriola and Dolores elementaries; Mancos elementary; Dolores Teddybear preschool; and students from Lighthouse Christian Academy and Crossroads Church Bible School. Many community members also donated cookies and candy.
“When we collected the cards, it created a mountain on my kitchen table,” Simmons said. “The pictures and flags the kids drew were so adorable, really precious.”
Mesa Elementary created valentine bookmarks, each with unique drawings and messages. The Dolores elementary and preschool made so many Valentine’s Day cards they laid them out in a giant heart shape in the gymnasium.
“All the schools and churches that participated truly went beyond expectations,” Simmons said. “We’d like to thank the children, teachers, principals, parents, Patriots and all who helped make this Valentines Day special for our veterans.”
The valentines and individual bags of sweets were collected at the schools and taken to the Montezuma County Veterans Project Outreach Center at 432 N. Broadway, and to the county veteran services offices at 107 N. Chestnut St. They were mailed to veterans or handed out in person, and are available at the veteran offices to take home and share.
The Patriots also identified 11 veterans in the community who are homebound. Special gift bags and valentine cards were hand delivered to their homes.
“It opened our eyes of the needs of our homebound veterans, and we want to go further in assisting them,” Simmons said.
Honoring veterans is an important mission of the Patriots, she said, which formed July 4. The group previously organized a parade and Christmas event for veterans.
“We hold veterans close to our hearts, and believe it’s so important to recognize and show appreciation for them,” Simmons said.
The group informed school officials of the Valentine for Veterans idea, and the teachers, principals and students took it from there, she said.
The boxes of cards were delivered to Patriot volunteers outside the schools, Simmons said, and they wore masks as required if they went inside to collect the boxes.
The Patriots gained public attention this summer during its weekly rallies and demonstrations on Main Street, Cortez, organized at first to support reopening businesses in town during coronavirus restrictions, and then to support first responders, the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and to support then-President Donald Trump. The rallies up and down Main Street displayed American, Christian, Confederate, Trump and Three-Percenter flags.
Its last large public demonstration occurred on Jan. 6. As local protesters, some bearing guns and many waving American and Trump flags, met in Cortez, thousands of protesters rioted at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Previous Patriot parades in Cortez have been the talk of town.
Separate marches by a local Peace and Justice and Black Lives Matter group coincided with Patriot rallies, which spurred occasional confrontations.
A new focusWhile they are still committed to flag-waving, patriotic rallies in nicer weather, the Patriots have been turning their attention to civic and community projects, Simmons said.
“We got to talking about holding the flags back and seeing what the community needs are, figuring out what we can do to meet those needs,” she said. “We’re working on some ideas. Our volunteers are a generous group and want to help.”
They recently conducted a food drive among members to help a disabled man. The donations exceeded the need, and they are looking for others who need food.
“Working together to help each others feels positive, and we all need that right now,” Simmons said. It counteracts all the “dark and negative” aspects of a divisive presidential election, Red vs. Blue politics, and the ongoing pandemic.
“We are looking to what we can do, seeing where people are struggling and need assistance,” said Allen Maez, a member of the Patriots and president of the Montezuma County Republicans. “Patriots are quick to lend a hand, and they also love to show their patriotism and stand up for freedom.”
Joining the Patriot’s Facebook page is by invitation only, and its posts are hidden from the public. Simmons said the group is working on launching a public webpage where events and information will be posted.