Several weeks ago, my family and I journeyed to France to follow the trails of the great French battlefields of World Wars I and II: Verdon, Dunkirk, The Normandy Beaches. It was cold; it was rainy, reminiscent of the conditions in which those battles were likely fought. Millions died on these fields, memorialized now in neat rows of white crosses spread across green grass juxtaposed against crumbling concrete bunkers and long barrels of rusted canon. The most striking of these – the battlefields of Verdon – saw 800,000 casualties over the 300-day siege in 1916. Thus, it was the end of the First World War on November 11, 1918, heralded as “the war to end all wars,” that promoted our country – among many others – to dedicate November 11 annually as Veterans Day.
Our college – indeed most community colleges – is deeply committed to honoring the gift of freedom secured for us by our veterans through successive wars. Many of them – employees and students – work and learn among us. The Military Times Magazine recognizes colleges for high levels of institutional support for veterans with the designation of “Military Friendly Institution.” This is a well-deserved accolade for community colleges – one of which our college is proud to hold – that work hard to provide the highest level of support for veteran students. For most of us, a commitment to recruiting and supporting veterans, military personnel, and their families is unwavering, drawing upon initiatives such as the recently introduced Veterans Rapid Retraining Assistance Program, designed to assist veterans to enroll in and earn short term credentials.
On a cycle of almost 20 years apart, other wars, both large and small in scale, have reminded us of that long ago failed promise of peace, “the war to end all wars!” But for us, blessed to live in America where no war has been fought on native soil since 1865, the question is who has kept the wars from our shores. The answer lies in the dedication and commitment of the men and women in our Armed forces. And today, we honor and thank them. It may seem a small gesture to pause for a short while to pay homage to the veterans at our 1,000 community colleges with a campus flag raising ceremony or to commemorate the day with a Fallen Soldier exhibit or military display. Small gestures like these take on great significance. And so, we pause on this day to celebrate and thank all of the veterans who make up our diverse communities.