Today, the Daily Deac is not about campus per se. Today is the day that many businesses observe Veterans Day, so it is a day of remembrance and gratitude for all who have served our country.
Many thanks to all our Deac parents and families who have served in the military. No matter which side of the political aisle you sit on, I hope we can all agree that the men and women who voluntarily join our country’s armed forces are making a noble commitment.
And although it is called Veterans Day, here at the Daily Deac we also want to honor and thank all of those in the other ‘helping professions’ too: police, firefighters, EMTs, medics and clerics of all types and sorts, etc. If part of your job is to help and serve others – especially in dire times or when your own personal safety is at risk – we thank you.
You may have seen over the weekend that it was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It reminds me – once again – that one of the most formative moments of my WFU education came not in the classroom here, but at the D-Day beaches in Normandy during my semester abroad.
Our professor from the Dijon program took our group to the D-Day beaches and the American cemetery. There was something about seeing it in person that made history seem so real. Just looking at the landscape, you knew it would have been an overwhelming struggle to get up the beach: the cliffs were steep and heavily armored. It made sense that so many of the soliders died, because all the odds were against them. The fact that they pushed on is a remarkable testament to their bravery.
There aren’t words good enough to describe what all of us felt when we got to the cemetery. The rows of headstones were blanched, beautiful, perfectly symmetrical, and seemingly endless. The soldiers’ ages on the headstones – 18, 19, 20 – heartbreaking. Knowing those young men died a horrible death and so far away from home was a sadness we did not know how to contain. We shed lots of hot, silent tears. And then our wonderful and wise professor, Byron Wells, spoke to us gently on the bus when we were leaving. No big speeches. No political statements. But a simple “Never forget what you saw here.” I know I have not.
For so many of our Deacs abroad in Europe this fall, I hope they have the opportunity to visit some of these historic and somber sights. Seeing the poppies the English wear, the books of the war dead in Westminster Abbey, the Cabinet War Rooms of London, the fields of poppies in Normandy, or the concentration camps in Europe can be incredible learning moments, and truly formative human moments.
Today we honor the memory of all the soldiers who have passed, those who survived, those who saw action, and those who served nobly in other ways. And I can’t help but think of our future veterans, those who have not yet begun their service, our WFU ROTC students.