In Honor, to Honor and be Honored…
November 11, 1918, is a date that will serve the test of time as a moment of peace against hostile waters. A collective warm sigh towards the bitter cold and hellish nature of war. It’s impossible to fathom how much a simple blanket or a friendly conversation meant after such brutal conditions forced us into animalistic tendencies. Our country, our home, ignited by the pledge of loyalty, to stand in the face of adversity and thwart its might thrall. Even now, having a century passed since the Armistice of World War One, the world seems ready once again to lay down its arms and take up arms covered in dirt.
On this day, however, we celebrate the millions who left their mother’s soil to become a vessel of freedom and a weapon of persecution. For UIS, they expressed their thanks outside the Teardrop Entrance on the lawn connected to the PAC building. The skies were clear in light blue, with a moderate breeze without a bite of cold. Shades of red and brown leaves collected in strength, another year has nearly left again. The small crowd first gathered inside, bundled in jackets and scarves, chatting among each other. Simple, yet vibrant.
Just after 1:30 p.m., we were led outside, and past the bus and drop-off lanes stood three flags overlooking the campus. The two smaller poles flew the Illinois State Flag and the UIS flag. Sandwiched between was the symbol of freedom, the American Flag, flying high above all others. From where we were, the flags stood in solidarity with the trees in bloom and the beautiful afternoon sky behind them. There was a quick rundown of how the event was to go, starting with the sound of retreat. Everyone stops and comes to attention – except here it becomes the call of acknowledgment to our nation’s symbol of freedom. Next would come “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the flag is lowered to half-mast to memorialize those lost and to those at home and abroad. Finally, “Taps” would play, putting the symbol of America back at its high mast to continue to soar above its citizens.
However, there were some technical issues along the way – mainly the wind wanting to play spoiler and steal the musicians’ sheets of music. In fact, this reporter became one of the sheet guards as they played the National Anthem. The wind tried with all its might, but the notes were secured.
In the end, the remembrance lasted just over eight minutes, with the thanking of other veterans who had made the trip and of those still stationed overseas. There was an after-event held in the newly established Military and Veterans Student Office to celebrate the birthday of the Marine Corps as well as the Armistice of 1918. Cake and snacks were distributed to those who attended the small gathering, though this humble reporter did not stay long enough to meet and greet with those who ran the office.
Veterans Day is not just another federal holiday that students and workers have as an additional day off – rather, it represents a voice that has been quietly dimmed by countless clashes that have carved out sections in textbooks and online pages. Sacrifices that are made farcical through works of fiction and desensitized exposure. While it might seem like just another statistic, for others it has become a part of them. A constant stream of life, the unknowing of peace and comfort. Most will never know what the true heart of man really is until one is stripped of commodities and left to fend along a tattered field. Once home, the images of screams and tears blot out visions of amber grains. We glorify this violence without understanding the hearts of those who came back, and of those who never left. “We will never forget” should not be a forgotten slogan once something new comes around. It is a pledge of remembrance, to recall our many failures, and to expand our successes. To forget is to fail, and last checked, that was not our allegiance, yet those who take the pledge become pawns of their government. We have made mistakes, but it is an insult to deny their occurrence.
We will remember those whose bodies return to dust and those with internal scars braving everyday life. Those who have stood on the edge of flames and danced against the inviting insanity. Those who fought in heartless trials and poisoned edges. In wars of pointlessness and redundancy, to those of freedom and choice. Not only Americans but to any nation, any people, any heart. We will not forget.
To those who gave their service, we thank you.