Keuka College honored veterans and active duty personnel with a Nov. 11 ceremony held in Hegeman 109 and on the lawn near the World War II memorial.
The ceremony featured remarks by College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera; Chris Leahy, associate professor of history; Sander Diamond, professor of history; and Linda Park, director of Lightner Library. Eric Detar, College chaplain, offered a prayer of remembrance, and members of the Penn Yan VFW Honor Guard also took part.
Before the ceremony, members of the College and area community signed some 580 holiday cards that will be sent to veterans and active-duty service personnel across America and abroad.
Part of the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program, the College campaign was sponsored by the Staff Advisory Council’s (SAC) Events Committee, co-chaired by Paulette Willemsen, secretary for the Division of Education and Division of Social Work, and BJ Hill, office manager for student affairs.
“Writing cards to our service men and women is a good way to spread holiday cheer and make them feel appreciated,” said Willemsen.
Vicki Tobias, database administrator and committee member, agrees.
“I had four brothers, a sister, and now a niece and nephew serve in the military, and I appreciate what they have done and continue to do,” she said.
Committee member Judy Gilmartin, administrative programmer, said writing her name on the cards “makes a more personal contact with a veteran, and I believe everyone should think about all of those in the service, not just those we know.”
Senior Caroline Arancio, an organizational communication major from Clinton, took time to sign a card because her best friend just returned from basic training, and “I want him to know that I am proud of him and support him.”
Olivia Hudson, a junior occupational science major from Adams, “doesn’t think the people in the military get enough credit for all they do,” while Bryan Chaffee, a sophomore criminal justice/criminology major from Keuka Park, wanted to “thank those who fight for our freedom.”
Aubrey Clark, a sophomore occupational science major from Fillmore; Dani Alred, a junior organizational communication major from Horseheads; Emily Grecco, a sophomore psychology major from Waverly; Jakiem Brown, a junior educational studies major from Rochester; Nicole Naidoo, a sophomore accounting major from Durban, South Africa; and Melissa Whipple, a sophomore psychology major from Victor all wanted to sign a card to show their appreciation for the service our military personnel provides.
Those who took part were asked to write a short message and sign their name on a card. In addition to writing messages and signing their names, many members of the campus and local community donated cards, including students at Keuka Lake School and Prattsburgh Central School, residents of Clinton Crest Manor, and participants in College’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
Keuka College will mark Veterans Day Monday, Nov. 11, with a 4 p.m. ceremony at the World War II memorial near Lightner Library. (In case of inclement weather, it will be held in Hegeman Hall 109.)
College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera will deliver remarks along with Chris Leahy, associate professor of history; Sander Diamond, professor of history; and Linda Park, director of Lightner Library. Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain, will offer a prayer of remembrance, and members of the Penn Yan VFW Honor Guard are expected to take part.
After the ceremony, refreshments will be served in Lightner Library.
Erected by members of the Political Science and History Club in 2005, the memorial commemorates the 60th anniversary of V-E Day, honors World War II veterans, and recognizes the contributions Keuka College nurses made during the war.
By Dr. Sander A. Diamond, professor of history
At exactly 11 o’clock on the morning of Nov. 11, 1918, the Great War of 1914 came to an end. By the time the Armistice was signed, more than 10 million had been killed. Most military scholars agree that 6.8 million men died in combat and another 3 million-plus from accidents, disease, or in POW camps.
During the war, there were two major fronts: the East, where the Russians and Germans fought, and the West, in Flanders and Northern France. Before the war destroyed the landscape, the fields looked like a van Gogh painting, filled with flowers, cows, and shafts of wheat mixed in with red poppies. In 1915, John McCrae published the most famous poem of the war: In Flanders Fields. In time, every school child memorized the poem that began:
In Flanders Fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row…
The British Legion chose the red poppies as the symbol of remembrance, fabricated out of wire and red paper. They were first worn at the first Armistice Day and ever since.
The first Armistice Day was commemorated Nov. 11, 1919, at 11 a.m. in all Allied capitals amid hushed crowds, bells ringing out the hour. In towns and cities, large and small groups of veterans and their fellow citizens gathered around make-shift memorials to mark the hour. Nearly all of the veterans wore their uniforms, their chests decorated with medals. In the United Kingdom and its possessions, they called it Remembrance Day. It was called Armistice Day in the United States until changed to Veterans Day in the 1950s to honor all who served in later conflicts.
The reality of the loss was everywhere to be seen: women in mourning dresses; fathers with black armbands mixing with veterans horribly deformed, many in wooden wheelchairs or on crutches with missing limbs some with faces so disfigured that they wore masks; those whose lungs had been poisoned by gas, still coughing.
The bodies of those who fell in battle were collected and many put in temporary grave sites near where the battles were fought. Families were given the option of having the remains sent home or buried in Europe. It was a painstaking task; often, the remains had to be exhumed. Of the 116,708 soldiers who died as part of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, 30,921 are buried in Europe.
The bodies that were returned home were buried in local or military cemeteries. In the inter-war years, memorials were built and erected in many towns and cities. In 1921, Congress created a single memorial in Arlington National Cemetery on the property once owned by General Robert E. Lee. In France, the bodies of four unknown soldiers were exhumed and brought to a small chapel. A U.S. soldier was handed a bouquet of white roses and asked to place it on one of the four coffins. The one he selected was sent to Arlington and placed in an above-ground sarcophagus made of white marble: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In 1931, a more elaborate tomb replaced the original and after World War II, several additional tombs were added, and today the memorial is known as the Tomb of the Unknowns. Each Nov. 11, a solemn ceremony is held, with the president placing a wreath on the tomb. It is our most sacred ground, guarded day and night by special service personnel.
Today, as we approach the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I not one service person remains. The last American, Frank Buckles, died in February 2011 and the last Brit, Harry Patch, just three years ago, victims of what Lincoln called “the silent artillery of time.”
On Nov. 11, the Keuka College community will gather at the World War II memorial that stands near Hegeman Hall. It was dedicated May 9, 2005, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. It was a gift to the College and community from the students in the History/Political Science Club. On one face of the monument, all of the theaters of war are listed; on the other, a testament to the Keuka College nurses and the program created in the darkest days of World War II. Nursing graduates have served in all wars since the founding of the program. A few yards away is another small monument remembering the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Rising above it is an oak tree, the symbol of the College.
On Nov. 11, the College will remember all who have served our nation and continue to serve. We will also remember the 124,913 Americans who are buried overseas. A formation of veterans from the local VFW will fire their rifles at the end of the commemoration just as veterans have since the first Armistice Day in 1919.
We must take time to remember and honor all of those who served and continue to serve on land, on the sea, and in the air. We also must remember those who are still in the line of fire— in Afghanistan and other regional conflicts. When our service personnel return home, many will return to civilian life as they knew it. Others will enter college and will be welcomed as students on our campus, the two World War II monuments reminding them that Keuka College has always been a welcoming community.
There is also one final nugget from our past, namely, the Field Period program, which was, in part, created in 1942 so some of our students could help bring in the harvest since “the boys” were overseas.
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.