This past Tuesday was Veterans Day. You may have missed it because here on Colgate’s campus it just seemed like another day. I must confess I wasn’t thinking too much about Veterans Day when I woke up on Tuesday, but I really started to during a discussion some students were having before my first class. They were upset because other schools had off and we didn’t, and one of them said jokingly that she should get off today because her Dad was a veteran. And then several students chimed in discussing their family members who were veterans.
It got me thinking about the veterans in my life. I thought about my grandfather who served during World War II and basically every other male relative I have over the age of 80 because almost all of them helped defeat the forces of fascism over 60 years ago. I thought about my now-deceased grandfather who served in three wars as a member of the Underwater Demolition Team, which later became the Navy Seals. I thought about my cousin and uncle who both served in the Army during times of peace. Most importantly, I thought of my two cousins who are serving this nation as we speak: one as a Marine and the other as a pilot in the Air Force. I realized that probably everyone here on campus is very close to a veteran. So why was it that November 11 went by without any acknowledgement of our veterans?
This school has found plenty of time to condemn the ignorant deeds of a few hate-filled individuals who have spewed racist comments that we all hoped didn’t have a place in the twenty-first century. It is proper that we condemn these acts, but it seems to me that we should spend at least as much time focusing on the heroes among us as we do focusing on the villains. The term hero is thrown around lightly sometimes. I for one use it for athletes, movie stars and politicians. But we don’t need to look to the gridiron or the silver screen to find a hero; we just need to turn to someone who has served this country in peace or war.
These heroes are the real deal. They’ve put their lives on the line to defend this nation in a variety of capacities. And it’s not just our veterans we should have remembered on Tuesday; we should have been thinking about those who are still serving as we speak as well. Sometimes here at Colgate it is difficult to remember that there are men and women our age whose biggest worry isn’t that big paper due next week but whether a roadside bomb is lying around the next bend. While we party on Friday nights, there are others who are raiding terrorist strongholds. I’m not saying we should be ashamed of ourselves, but I am saying that we should take some time out of our schedules to honor those who risk a lot more than getting an F on a midterm when they wake up in the morning.
And despite the dangers that they will face overseas, there are even those among us at Colgate that still answer the call of our nation. I know one student who has enrolled in the ROTC program, but he has to travel to Syracuse to participate in it. Is this right? Should we continue to discourage those who want to serve their country by not having ROTC here on campus? I think not. We should make it as easy as possible for those here at Colgate who want to fight for us. Furthermore, not having an ROTC program on campus discourages people interested in a military career from even considering Colgate as an option when applying for college.
We also need to remember on Veterans Day that there are those who have served our nation and didn’t make it back home. They justly deserve our remembrance and thanks as well. Going forward we have to make sure that we don’t let Veterans Days pass by without commemoration again. I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve never pushed for a ceremony on Veterans Day, but I ask you all to join with me to make sure that Veterans Day is celebrated at Colgate next year. We need to push the administration and the chaplaincy to get something done next year. It can be as simple as a moment of silence and prayer outside the Chapel, or the laying of a wreath on the Quad. No matter how we do it, we can no longer avoid paying tribute to those who have served our nation and those who continue to serve it. It is the least we can do.