For technology specialist and veteran Cristian Piedra, nothing says “thank you” to American heroes like 1,500 members of the Wesleyan community gathered in Yancey Gymnasium to celebrate Veterans Day. “We don’t ask for anything as servicemen, and the fact that we are recognized and celebrated is more than enough.”
On Nov. 10, middle and high school students and special guests recognized the service of veterans in the local community. Faculty members, former students and immediate family members with military experience were honored during the Veterans Day Celebration. Sophomore Bella Barnes, whose father was in the United States Marine Corps, commemorated Veterans Day as a “reminder to be thankful for those who fought for our freedom.”
Social Sciences Department Chair Ted Russell organized the community event and said, “Veterans Day is meant to be a celebration of those who have served our country to guarantee the freedoms we enjoy in the United States. At Wesleyan, we extend that to acknowledge those in our community who are veterans, those who are currently serving in the military and those in the military academies, preparing to serve.”
Schoolwide support for veterans went a long way to encourage local heroes. Wesleyan Headmaster Chris Cleveland and the recognized veterans motivated students to be respectful and compassionate towards the servicemen and women who have made significant sacrifices to protect their daily freedoms in the United States. Prayer and celebration showed community veterans that Wesleyan will never forget their dedication to serving and protecting their country.
Keith Gallagher, father of senior Megan Gallagher and veteran of the United States Navy, was the guest speaker at the 2017 assembly. As a former lieutenant of the Navy, he spoke to the students and parents about honoring the sacrifices of military men and women. He emphasized the necessity and importance of teamwork in the military through stories of his own experience as a Navigator and Bomber on A-6 jets. His daughter, Megan Gallagher aspires to follow in his footsteps and serve in the Navy in the future. “I love the idea of being able to serve the people and community that I love by serving in the military,” she said. “I see it as a way to thank all the people who have invested in me and loved me throughout my life.”
The Veterans Day Celebration paid special recognition to faculty members who have served in the United States Armed Forces prior to coming to Wesleyan. Piedra, who served as an Airborne Ranger in the United States Army for six years, said, “I believe Wesleyan definitely honors Veterans Day more than any other school, which makes me proud to be an employee here.”
Sophomore Grade Chair Josh Smith served in the United States Navy Reserve before coming to Wesleyan. He stated that Veterans Day is important to “remember everyone who devotes their life to serving our nation. The Celebration does an incredible job recognizing service people connected to Wesleyan and bringing speakers with firsthand experience in the military. Overall, it is a great show of gratitude.”
Veterans Day was particularly inspiring for students like Megan Gallagher who want to serve in the United States Armed Forces in the future. Senior Ben Connor aims to one day serve in the Marine Corps; he said, “I wish to serve in the military because I want to protect my country, loved ones and especially those who cannot protect themselves. I believe Veterans Day is a necessary reminder that the freedoms we enjoy are not free, and people we don’t even know have sacrificed much for the protection of our rights.”
The Veterans Day ceremony aimed to ensure that the hard work and sacrifice of heroic American veterans will never be taken for granted. By reminding the student body of the true meaning of the holiday, Wesleyan informed the community on how to appropriately honor members of the United States Armed Forces. On Nov. 8, the lower school performed and recognized veterans during their own Veterans Day Celebration.
For members of Wesleyan’s community, the Veterans Day Celebration was an opportunity to respectfully commemorate the bravery of local military heroes. “While Veterans are celebrated and honored,” said Megan Gallagher, “it means something more when an entire community gets together to dedicate a few hours of their time to them. I see how happy it makes my dad, and it makes me happy in return. It clearly means a lot to the veterans, and I know that one day, it will mean that much to me as well.”
Every day is a day to celebrate veterans. Connor encouraged peers to continuously support veterans beyond Veterans Day “through recognition of their selfless decisions. In addition to this, we can locate a charity that specializes in helping veterans who have trouble reentering into ‘regular’ home life.” Whether it is through prayer, financial support or simple recognition, every gift offered to a former serviceman or woman represents well-deserved gratitude.