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To Honor and To Thank

by Melissa Brunner

You might notice something a bit different along S. Kansas Ave. Monday. Among those hustling into their workplaces or grabbing lunch, are a few men and women in uniform. They're not striking up conversations, they are simply, silently standing at attention.

It's called the Stand of Sacrifice. During the stand, military representatives will stand at attention as a way to honor their fallen comrades. It's taking place until 5 pm Monday at 800 S. Kansas Ave. and the public is invited to stand alongside them for a period of time if they wish.

The Stand begins a week of events in Topeka to honor our nation's veterans. It's the brainchild of Melissa Jarboe, whose husband, Sgt. Jamie Jarboe, died of injuries he suffered at the hands of a sniper while serving in Afghanistan. Melissa has made it her mission to carry out Jamie's dying wish to take care of his fellow soldiers and their families. For Melissa, that means being sure all servicemen and servicewomen are recognized for the sacrifices they have made. She has formed the Jamie Jarboe Foundation as a vehicle for accomplishing that mission, and has poured his life insurance into the endeavor.

When Melissa learned Topeka had no Veterans' Day parade, she decided to organize one. She then took it a step further. Why limit honoring our veterans to a single event on a single day?

If you miss Monday's Stand of Sacrifice, you can come to downtown Topeka Tuesday for view the Faces of Freedom Project. Stroll S. Kansas Ave. from 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday and you will see combat boots lining the street. Attached to each pair will be a photo of a military hero. Melissa first did this venture last year and ran out of boots, so this year's promises to be an impressive and moving site.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, Visit Topeka will assist by being the point location for a Patriotic Scavenger Hunt. Pick up your form at their office, 618 S. Kansas Ave., then visit memorials and museums around the area that pay tribute to American heroes to complete your form. Turn it in by 4 pm Friday to be eligible for prizes. Plus, veterans who stop in at the Visit Topeka office from 8 am to 5 pm Wednesday can enjoy free coffee and donuts.

Saturday evening brings a Salute to Our Heroes Gala which will honor veterans as well as the organizations which support them.

It all leads to Monday, which is Veterans' Day. The parade steps off at 11 am -- the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month -- through downtown Topeka (4th St. south on Kansas Ave., to 12th, over to Jackson, back north to 6th). The Jamie Jarboe Foundation is providing floats to honor veterans of each war. Come on out with your American flags to join the salute. The week ends with a 2 pm ceremony at the All Veterans' Memorial at Great Overland Station.

It is an ambitious undertaking, especially when you consider this - Melissa and the Foundation are footing the bill, hoping to offset the costs with any private donations and sponsorships. So far, those have been slow to come. If you'd like to help or to learn more about the events, visit www.topekaveteransparade.org. To learn about the foundation, visit www.jamiejarboe.org for details on how you can show your support. But beyond any monetary gifts, give your time - take your time to turn out for one or all of the events and show our nations veterans you appreciate their sacrifice - and show families like Melissa's that their loved ones' ultimate sacrifice was not in vain.

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