Keuka College marked Veterans Day with a presentation by Chris Leahy, associate professor of history and a prayer of remembrance by Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain.
Members of the Penn Yan VFW sounded a 21-gun salute and played Taps at the end of the service held Nov. 9 at the World War II memorial.
Leahy’s remarks follow:
“Sixteen million men and women served for the United States in some military capacity in World War II; 10 million men served in combat. These men are dying at a rate of nearly 1,000 per day.
“1, 789,000 served in combat during the Korean War; these men are also dying at a rapid rate.
“8,744,000 served in combat in Vietnam; 698,000 men and women served during the first Persian Gulf War.
“1,048,844 troops have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. One-third of them served more than one tour. Of course, men and women are combat veterans now.
“Our veterans hold a special place in the hearts of many Americans—indeed, should hold a special place in the hearts of all Americans.
“When Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, addressed the troops on June 6, 1944, as he launched Operation Overload, the Normandy invasion of D-Day, he spoke simply.
“’Full victory—nothing else,’ he said.
“The brave men who stormed the beaches that day and made their way to the cliffs overlooking those beaches, took those words to heart. Forty years later, on the anniversary of that day, President Ronald Reagan was in Normandy. He honored these men with an eloquent and moving speech.
“’These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc,’” he said. ‘These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.’”
“He told them: ‘Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.
“’The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge—and pray God we have not lost it—that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.’
“President Reagan spoke these words to the World War II veterans who fought so valiantly on D-Day. But he could well have spoken them to veterans of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, or the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“As could these words, again, forcefully spoken by President Reagan:
“’You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.’
“Reagan concluded his speech with words that could and should inspire us, as Americans, as we honor our veterans:
“’Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.’
“Veterans of foreign wars, thank you for your service to our country.”
Keuka College honored current military servicemen and women and those who served in past wars and foreign conflicts Friday in a ceremony marking Veterans Day.
“Today, we pay tribute to the veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, including those nurses who were trained at Keuka College. The College’s nursing program was created in response to the need for nurses in World War II,” said President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera in a welcome at Norton Chapel.
First known as Armistice Day, the nation marked the laying down of arms that took place on the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, following the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. President Woodrow Wilson, feeling the weight of his decision to send American “doughboys” into battle in Europe, asked citizens a year later to honor the sacrifice of their fellow countrymen with solemn pride, said Chris Leahy, associate professor of history.
“Wilson envisioned that every Nov. 11 from that point forward would see parades throughout the small towns and big cities of the United States, and a brief suspension of business at 11 a.m.,” Leahy said.
In 1938, it became a federal holiday, but not until 1953 was a name change proposed, Leahy said. After Kansas shoe store owner Al King began a campaign to recognize all veterans, not just those from World War I, a Kansas Congressman introduced a federal bill, which was signed into law in 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower. Thus, it officially became known as Veterans Day.
Professor of History Sander Diamond described the stately precision with which the 22 domestic and 24 overseas cemetery battlefields or memorials are kept in tribute of those who gave their lives. In 1921, one more tradition, that of placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, was begun when Sgt. Edward Younger first placed a spray of white roses on the third of four caskets of unidentified American soldiers placed in a row at a city hall not far from the Meuse-Argonne cemetery in France. The casket Younger chose was taken by ship for burial at Washington’s Arlington National Cemetery, where other unknown soldiers have been buried alongside it, he said.
Diamond noted that the last two World War I veterans, American Frank Buckles and England’s Harry Patch, both died at age 110 this year. Since America’s first war, the War for Independence, some 2,489,335 men and women have given their lives for their country, including 3,542 in Iraq and 1,425 in Afghanistan, where military conflicts are not yet resolved. And many who serve come back home with horrific wounds, both physical and psychological, from disfigurement to mental problems once called “shell-shock” but known today as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), he added.
“It is now up to us and our government to see to it that our most recent veterans have their needs met, no matter what the cost, even in this era of cost-cutting,” Diamond said, drawing parallels between the Keuka mission, which stresses “service above self,” and the mindset of many veterans and family members who wait for their return home.
“We are mindful that American service men and women are still fighting and dying in Afghanistan. This gives Veterans Day more immediacy, more poignancy,” said Leahy, adding that it was important to honor and remember the brave women, as well as men, who have served.
The event closed with a prayer of remembrance, led by College Chaplain Rev. Eric Detar and a Presentation of Arms by an honor guard from the Yates County VFW, Post 745, at Keuka’s World War II monument, which stands near Lightner Library.
“We cannot fully repay those who gave up two lives, the life they were living and the life they would have lived,” said Detar.
Keuka College will mark Veteran’s Day Friday, Nov. 11, with presentations by two faculty members and a prayer of remembrance by the College chaplain.
Beginning at noon in Norton Chapel, Professor of History Sander Diamond will discuss how our veterans have been memorialized at home and on former battlefields overseas while Chris Leahy, associate professor of history, “will provide an overview of this important and memorable day,” said Diamond.
After the chapel presentations, College Chaplain Rev. Eric Detar will offer a prayer of remembrance at the World War II memorial located near Lightner Library. Erected by members of the Political Science and History Club in 2005, the memorial commemorates the 60th anniversary of VE-Day and recognizes the College’s nursing program “that was created during the war years as our College’s major contribution to the war effort,” said Diamond.
The College observed Veterans Day with a talk by Penn Yan residents and U.S. Air Force veterans Les and Wanda Wood. In addition, College Chaplain Rev. Eric Detar led a prayer service that was followed by a recognition of students who have served in the military.
Keuka College marked Veterans Day with two events.
Assistant Professor of History Christopher Leahy discussed the history of Veterans Day and related issues in front of an overflow crowd of students, faculty, and staff in Hegeman 109.
That was followed by an outdoor ceremony at the World War II monument. A local honor guard and College Chaplain Rev. Eric Detar paid tribute to those who have served, and are serving, our country.