"We are always Americans first." That's what keynote speaker and Army veteran Edward Vela told the students, staff and community members Wednesday morning during a Veterans Day ceremony at La Junta Intermediate School.

 "We are always Americans first."

That's what keynote speaker and Army veteran Edward Vela told the students, staff and community members Wednesday morning during a Veterans Day ceremony at La Junta Intermediate School.

Vela told those in attendance to treasure where they came from and treasure their ancestors, but to always remember that they are "Americans first." He added when Americans are in the battlefield, they are not judged on the color of their skin or religious beliefs - they stand as Americans. He encouraged students to do the same.

He also reminded students to remember those who have fought for our country's freedom as they get up and go to school each day. He said to honor those who have fought for our country's freedom by living "your life in a responsible and respectable way."

He also encouraged students to be leaders.

"Don't be afraid to lead," he said. "Be a leader. The USA is a leader in the free world."

He added that each student's behavior and attitude will define the future of the USA.

"Show others the respect and dignity you want and deserve," he said.

La Junta School District Superintendent Rick Lovato thanked those who have served our country. "Those who have faced life and death situations, I am absolutely thankful for what you've done," he said. "I am truly appreciative."

The program was hosted by La Junta Intermediate School Student Council and adviser Juanita Hinkhouse. American Legion Post 9 presented the colors. LJIS students sang a song and the LJIS A Cappella group sang "Proud to be An American."

Following the presentation of the Remembrance Wreath by and a moment of silence, "Taps" was played by veteran Bob Gomez and Tiffany Morales, and Rob Marshall played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

Veterans and guests were invited to stay for coffee and cake following the ceremony.