Operation Bugle Boy fosters a deeper appreciation for veterans, military members, and first responders

Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, citizens and communities across the nation sprang into action to help the families of victims and fallen heroes of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93. Here in Jefferson City, longtime local Chris Jarboe wasted no time in getting to work and supporting the cause.

Then a guidance counselor at Jefferson City High School, Chris used this as an opportunity to engage local youth in a patriotic service project — organizing hundreds of adult and student volunteers with a mission of fostering a deeper appreciation for veterans, military members, and first responders. Named for sounding the alarms as bugle boys did during WWI, Operation Bugle Boy works to initiate and carry out programs and activities in the community with as much involvement as possible from area youth.

Lydia Downing, Donald Lee
Lydia Downing, Donald Lee

“Operation Bugle Boy is a reflection of our community, and that’s something we can really feel good about.”


“September 11, probably like a lot of people, kind of got my mind right,” he says. “It got me thinking more about what I thought young people should be focusing on, and I had this idea to get Helias Catholic High School and Jefferson City High School work-ing together as a post-9/11 project.”

In an effort to raise money for the families of those killed in the terrorist attacks, Chris helped bring together volunteers from both schools to execute Operation Leaf Relief. While Jefferson City High School and Helias Catholic High School are two respected institutions with proud traditions, they also happen to be town rivals. But none of that mattered as students spent their Saturdays raking leaves for local homeowners in the spirit of service, cooperation, and a common cause for six weeks.

“I don’t know if there’s a more effective way to influence kids in a positive way than to inspire them the right way,” Chris says.

Nichols Career Center students

The students, as well as residents throughout the community, were certainly in-spired. That fall, Operation Leaf Relief raised $15,000, and it quickly became clear to Chris that this was the start of something, not the end of it.

“As the days went by, I got to thinking — are we going to just stop now? We learned really quickly that there’s always something related to patriotic service that we can do, particularly with the war we knew was coming.”

In addition to Operation Leaf Relief, which has now expanded to include volunteers from other area schools, Operation Bugle Boy now organizes a variety of programs, activities, and events each year. One event is Veterans Appreciation Night, created to honor these brave men and women. Operation Bugle Boy hosts this event each fall just before Veterans Day. To kick things off, Operation Bugle Boy also encourages area residents to participate in Wave ‘Em If You Got ‘Em. In this special showcase of appreciation, community members line the route to the St. Martins Knights of Columbus, waving flags and banners as the motorcade for Operation Bugle Boy’s honorary guests travel by. Up to 500 local veterans and their guests are invited to attend and enjoy a Thanksgiving-style dinner as a thank you for their service and sacrifice each year. The event features honorary guests and speakers as well as a wall of honor and several patriotic student volunteers who help make the night a success. During the 2022 event, a special focus was placed on honoring “The Greatest Generation” – veterans who served during World War II.

Ralph and Barb Kalberloh with Chris Jarboe
Ralph and Barb Kalberloh with Chris Jarboe
Centerpiece at the Operation Bugle Boy

Since 2001, efforts like Operation Bugle Boy have resulted in thousands of donation dollars to worthy causes, hundreds of care packages delivered to troops overseas, numerous appreciation programs, dinners for local first responders, annual seminars, and much more. Thanks to the support and encouragement of many great teachers, Operation Bugle Boy has also sponsored many letter-writing activities over the years for troops, veterans, and first responders. Now president and executive director of the organization, Chris has had a substantial impact on Operation Bugle Boy’s success over the past 22 years. He credits this success to the major contributions of community members like coach Pete Adkins, former state senator Carl Vogel, Lieutenant GovernorMike Kehoe, and many others.

“I could go on and on, but there were a lot of key people really empowering us. The humility really comes back to you when you start realizing that it’s because of the community we’re blessed to be a part of. Operation Bugle Boy is a reflection of our community, and that’s something we can really feel good about.”

MSgt. Frank Livingston, (retired).
MSgt. Frank Livingston, (retired).