Veterans share life lessons at school ceremony

Anne Marie Amacher
Staff and students applaud veterans at All Saints Catholic School’s Veterans Day Ceremony Nov. 9 in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Spirits were high Nov. 9 at the first Veterans Day Ceremony since 2019 at All Saints Catholic School. The school also offered video streaming for the first time, so more people could watch the event.

The fifth-graders opened the event with presentation of colors and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Principal Mindy Altman welcomed the veterans in attendance and thanked them for their service. “We appreciate what you have done for us.” She asked the veterans to stand as the students applauded. Sixth- and seventh-graders sang the Armed Forces songs for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Veterans from each branch of service stood for their song.

Davenport Mayor Mike Matson, a graduate of the former Holy Family Catholic School (now part of All Saints) and Assumption High School, spoke to the students. Adopted as an infant and raised in Davenport, he said he wasn’t sure what to do with his life and so relied on advice from family and friends.


“Listen to your parents, guardians, uncles, grandparents and friends. Research, talk and listen. Your education cannot end at high school. You need to continue to be a learner and you will go a long way.” The mayor said options after high school include the military, trade professions, community college, a four-year college, university and more.

After high school, he spent 22 years in the U.S. Army traveling around the United States and world. The Army provided the structure he needed, he said.  He advised the students to do everything to the best of their ability. “Whether you write a paper or make a basket in basketball, try to do what you can and with a good attitude. Make your bed and clean your room. You will learn that little things in life really do matter.”

In addition to serving in the Army, Matson taught at Central High School in Davenport for about 20 years. On Nov. 7, he was re-elected mayor of Davenport. He encouraged the youths to be nice to people, work together and noted that teamwork is the key to success.

Retired Colonel Ed (EJ) Degan grew up in rural Iowa and served in the U.S. Army. A product of Catholic schools, he was one of nine children in his family. He had no money for college so he worked for about 1 ½ years before enrolling at Iowa State University to study agriculture business. That area of study bored him.

He thought briefly about the priesthood and then decided he wanted to serve his community as a teacher and coach. At Iowa State, he was told he would make a good Army officer and encouraged to check out the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). On a visit to the armory, he saw personnel “dangling off ropes and rappelling 200 feet down” and accepted an invitation to try it. “I did it and never looked back. I knew what I wanted to do.”

He joined ROTC and received a card of Army values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. He still carries the card and maintains those values, following a lifelong career in the Army that included time at the Pentagon. Today he farms.

Degan told the students the Army values relate to what the Franciscan sisters taught him in school — how to think and not what to think. Following the retirement of colors, the All Saints band played “The Victors.”

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