Veterans Day gives us all a chance to say thank you to the brave men and women who have fought for our country’s freedoms. In my life, Veterans Day has always meant a lot.
My grandmother, Elaine St. John, was a US Navy Wave Lieutenant J.G. in WWII. My grandfather, George St. John, ended up as a Commander in the U.S. Navy, stayed with the Reserves and was Commanding Office of the Atlantic City Naval Reserve Unit during the 1950s. My uncle, Jeff St. John, was first a midshipman in the US Navy and ended up as a Captain of the U.S. Marine Corps. He earned a bronze star for bravery. My grandfather, George Haupin, was a WWII Army expert marksman, and received four campaign stars for serving on the Mountain Artillery Reconnaissance Services Task Force in the 612th Field Artillery Battalion in the China, Burma, and India Campaigns.
I am honored to be part of a family that sacrificed its time together, so other families could stay with theirs. Words cannot describe my pride.
When I was younger, I had pen pals in the military that I would write to and send tokens to, attempting to brighten their day just a little bit. I’m not sure if it worked, but I know for a fact their letters back brightened mine. I think now how lucky I was to have a hero as a pen pal.
Veterans Day not only gives us a chance to thank those who once served, it also enables us to thank those who are currently serving. Although we should be thankful for veterans every single day, it’s important as a nation we collectively dedicate this day to the heroes who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of complete strangers.
I personally think we owe a debt to veterans for most of our way of life. In my day-to-day life, I don’t live in fear of any kind. My gender doesn’t prevent me from going to college. I’m allowed to speak my mind (maybe too much) without fear of recrimination. I’m free to work hard and follow my dreams. I can travel and explore our country without hostile border checks by armed guards. All of this is possible and we have the choices and amazing lives we do because of our veterans.
Being in Washington, D.C. at this time has even added to my patriotism. I live right next to the Arlington Cemetery, I jog around the national mall after work, and I pass by the memorials regularly. In D.C., everywhere you turn there is an iconic landmark or memorial, therefore, everywhere I turn, I am proud to be an American.
This is what I think. But out of curiosity, I asked some of my college-aged friends from around the country to describe what Veterans Day means to them in one sentence. Here are the results:
“I don’t have immediate family members who fought—and unfortunately those who did are distant or deceased, so Veterans Day is a specific time for me to remember those strangers who have given so much to protect this nation, to protect me; and it’s their sacrifice for everyone, even those they don’t know, that amazes me.”- Morgan Beavers, University of Georgia
“For me, Veterans Day means recognizing all those we know and don’t know for their incredible service who don’t always get the credit they deserve. – Maddie Packard, St. Norbert College
“It’s a time to pay tribute to those who are serving and have served our country in the armed forces.” – Chris Griffith, Clemson University
“Veterans Day gives me a chance to appreciate those who have fought for our country, as they are more courageous and brave than I could ever imagine being. I’m proud of my grandparents and family members for the patriotism they continue to have today which is demonstrated by their constant service to the community. Sorry that was two sentences.” – Jamie Haupin, University of Delaware
“Veterans Day represents a day of honor and remembrance for the significant minority of individuals willing to preserve, protect, and defend the ideals and values of our great democracy; it’s also a day of solace for those that have paid the ultimate price with their lives.” – Ethan Murray, Texas Christian University
“To me, Veterans Day means taking time to honor and remember those who have served America and those who are currently serving our country.” – Ally Alden, University of Oxford through University of Georgia
“Veterans Day means honoring my family members who are veterans because I know they appreciate having that recognition as they are typically very modest about it.” – Maddie Squier, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Veterans Day means celebrating the people who have advocated for, protected and fought for my American right to freedom, and for that, I am eternally grateful.” – Bella Cowdin, St. Louis University
Sometimes, especially for younger generations who do not have a relative or friend who served or is serving, it may be difficult to see how veterans have affected our everyday lives. Sometimes it’s easy to take liberty and freedom for granted when we have never had it taken away from us. I was surprised by the answers I received, and I think the “older generations” will be too. Veterans Day is a reminder of our country’s place in history, and that the freedoms we value came at a high price, paid by those we celebrate on this day.
By Julie St. John Haupin, Susan Davis International
Julie is a junior at Pennsylvania State University studying public relations and advertising.
November 11, 2015