It was cold Wednesday on Veterans Day morning. An eastbound Chinook wind ripped in between the pillars supporting the facade of Big Horn Cinemas. It was strong enough to lift the drawings made by the Eastside students and make them wave in the breeze, but not so strong the masking tape holding the papers to the table lost its grip and the art fluttered into the wintry air.
The Eastside student council was wrapping up the Cody School District’s final way of honoring the veterans of the Bighorn Basin. Tradition in Cody had long held that after a celebration in Sweitzer Gym, students served the veterans and their families pie.
But as it has with so many other things, the coronavirus made that celebration impossible. Bringing together so many people – students, former service members, teachers, staff – in one place would not only be a violation of local health orders, it could also put a venerated population in harm’s way once again.
So, the schools recorded their presentations and compiled them into a movie for the veterans. Big Horn Cinemas donated their screens and their seats and their time to give the vets a place to watch the film and while also staying socially distant, the closest approximation to tradition that could be mustered.
And outside, in the whipping wind and below-freezing temperatures, the Eastside students waited behind tables covered in row after row of personal pies. Apple, cherry, banana cake, sweet potato, pecan; it seemed every flavor was represented by the 4-inch discs. They waved at passing trucks to blow their horns, and swarmed anyone who dared approach their table.
“I really wanted to serve the veterans who have helped me get a fantastic life,” said Lily Gallagher, age 10.
The pies and the movie are small potatoes compared to the lengths the students of the Cody School District went to raise money for Big Horn Basin Honor Quilts, a charity that provides high-quality quilts to veterans. The students in the district raised more than $5,800, double the amount raised last year to provide service dogs to veterans. Jona Vanata, of Families on the Frontline, said that will provide 500 quilts to the veterans.
“It gives me hope for our future,” Vanata, a veteran herself, said. “I can’t say it any other way. These are future patriots being raised to love their country.”
The students had to go back to school at 10:30 a.m. Their service for the day was over, but like the veterans they honored, it was not forgotten.