A breakfast for champions

Pictured are panelists Cmdr. Mary Beth Papke, Lt. Col. Don Karper, U.S. Army veteran Michael Koolidge and paratrooper Richard Schutte.

Annual Veteran’s Day breakfast hosted at Rochelle Township High School Monday morning

ROCHELLE — School administrators were keeping their eyes on the weather and road conditions Monday morning and the grounds crew at Rochelle Township High School had been out since before dawn preparing.
Hub Cafe Manager Rayna Bennett didn’t sleep at all Sunday night — Monday morning was her very first RTHS Veterans Day Breakfast where there are usually between 125 and 150 served.
After Superintendent Jason Harper’s opening remarks, Rochelle Mayor John Bearrows spoke, sharing with the audience a conversation with wife, Dina, that morning.
“She asked, ‘Do you think they’ll cancel given the weather?’ To which I replied, ‘They may cancel school, but they’re not gonna cancel the Veterans Day Breakfast. Those guys didn’t not go into battle because it was snowing’.”
As done every year, the absence of longtime guests who have become old friends was noted. For a few with mobility issues, staying home was prudent, but more than 100 came, reminisced, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast buffet, posed for photos with students, and stood at attention as their branch song was played by the senior members of Ron Duval’s marching band.
The breakfast was a success and so were the panel discussions that followed. Hosted by U.S. Army veteran Michael Koolidge, of the Michael Koolidge Show based here in Rochelle and broadcast in radio markets throughout the midwest, the panel included veterans whose service spanned seven decades including the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Shield, Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom through today.
Panelists included Lt. Col. Don Karper, U.S. Army Retired (41 years service); Cmdr. Mary Beth Papke a nurse with the U.S. Navy Reserves (active since 1985); and paratrooper Richard Schutte (Korea) who is also a beloved former RTHS science teacher, track and cross country coach. Koolidge introduced guests and fielded questions, generously sharing his experiences. They earned standing ovations.
(Article and photos from the RTHS Monday announcements)

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