Don Bee

Senior Airman Don Bee, an Air Force veteran, urged students to connect with the veterans and service members in their lives in a keynote talk at the North High School Veterans Day ceremony Friday. View more photos at LeaderTelegramPhotos.com.

Cassandra Cooper, a North High School senior, vividly remembers listening to her father’s stories about serving in the Army infantry in the mid 1970s.

“There has never been a point in my life so far when I haven’t been proud of my father and everything he’s accomplished,” Cooper told a crowd of students, community members and veterans Friday at North High School’s annual Veterans Day program.

Cooper’s father, Conrad Cooper, was in the crowd himself. He comes to North’s Veterans Day celebration every year, he said.

“It’s hard to explain, but it gives you something in here, and it gives you a lot up there,” Conrad Cooper said, gesturing to his heart and his head. “All the men in my family have been service members ... It’s just something to be done.”

The Veterans Day holiday will be celebrated Monday.

Some local service members are North graduates; two are the children of Senior Airman Don Bee, who served in the Air Force from 1992 to 1997.

“They both decided to go into the military, and that was their own doing,” said Bee, who was the keynote speaker at North’s Veterans Day program. “They wanted to be part of something bigger than (themselves).”

Bee’s daughter Alyssa Bee graduated from North in 2017, and is a private first class in the Army, working as a joint fire support specialist. She attends UW-Stout’s Army ROTC program and plans to “make it a career,” he said.

Tyler Bee is a 2015 North graduate; he joined the Air Force and is deployed in the Middle East, hoping to return home in January. He plans to attend officer training school and become an Air Force pilot.

“I miss him every Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Don Bee said. “It’s the sacrifices families and veterans go through at these times of year.”

When the Superior native was a 17-year-old himself — “Pretty much when I was your guys’ age,” he said — his parents had to sign their permission before he joined up.

“I didn’t know much at the time. I just knew I was bound for the Air Force,” Don Bee said.

He was stationed in Europe for much of his five-year service, meeting people he’s still close with today. But the experience made him “trust my life in other people’s hands,” he said.

Years later, veterans’ lives are in his hands; Don Bee now works as a registered nurse at HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire.

“Make sure you take the time, if you have grandparents of these ages, take the time to talk to them about what they saw, what they did,” Don Bee told North students. “They were all your age when they went in.”

Cassandra Cooper, North student council historian, and several other students on Friday shared memories of veterans in their own lives.

“He told me it was a great experience,” Cassandra Cooper said of her father. “He told me he’s not a violent person, nor does he advocate for violence, but he believes it was an honor to fight for our country.”

North student Matthew Holtz thanked his father and grandfather, both veterans.

“When I think of who I want to be as an adult, all I think about is you,” Holtz said.

The Eau Claire school district plans to hold Veterans Day programs on Monday that are open to the public at Lakeshore Elementary (9:05 a.m.), Longfellow Elementary (9:30 a.m.), Memorial High School (10 a.m.), Flynn Elementary (10 a.m.), Putnam Heights Elementary (10:30 a.m.), DeLong Middle School (1:15 p.m.) and Roosevelt Elementary (2:45 p.m.).

An RSVP by calling 715-852-3400 is required for the Lakeshore Elementary event due to limited space, according to the district.

For more details about each school’s Veterans Day program, visit shorturl.at/exGNP.

Contact: 715-833-9206, sarah.seifert@ecpc.com, @bysarahseifert on Twitter