Release Date: 
Monday, November 11, 2019

What Veterans Day means

Veterans Day graphic

This message is one of many messages related to our diverse community’s numerous unique holidays, including cultural, historic, and religious observances throughout the year. I am likely to write about the holidays or cultural observances that mean the most to you as they occur throughout the year. Please let me know if you want to learn my plans about a holiday that is specifically important to you.

On Monday, November 11, 2019, we celebrate the federal holiday of Veterans Day. This is the 100th anniversary of the holiday’s origins.

What is Veterans Day?

Veterans Day is an American holiday that honors the men and women who have served honorably in the U.S. military. Great Britain, France, Australia, and Canada also celebrate their own Veterans Day.

Veterans Day is different from Memorial Day (celebrated the final Monday in May), which honors members of the military who died while serving.

Veterans Day began on November 11, 1919, when U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it Armistice Day to honor veterans of World War I. The armistice that ended the war took place at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918. The war led to the deaths of more than 16 million people worldwide. About 117,000 were Americans.

Congress passed a resolution in 1926 urging state governors to make the holiday an annual observance. Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1938. In 1954, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day, and the holiday was broadened to honor all veterans.

Veterans Day is always on November 11. If it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it is observed on the Friday or Monday nearest the date, so that federal offices may be closed for the day. U.S. mail is not delivered on the holiday.

Who qualifies as a veteran?

U.S. veterans include those who served honorably on active duty with the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, and Coast Guard, and those who served for qualifying periods in the National Guard and Reserves. Veterans include those have served during peacetime or war time.

It is important to recognize that not all U.S. military veterans are U.S. citizens. Each year, about 8,000 legal permanent residents (green card holders) enlist in the U.S. military. For some, this leads to becoming a U.S. citizen, but citizenship is not guaranteed to veterans, even if their service is honorable and includes combat duty.

The U.S. currently has an all-volunteer military. But that has not always been the case. Men have been conscripted, or drafted, into the military to serve in America’s wars from the Revolutionary period up to and including the Vietnam War. Due to continued segregation in the military, black men were not conscripted until World War II.

In 2015, the U.S. military completed a two-year process to eliminate its ban on women serving in combat. Today, women are not required to register for the Selective Service (draft). After the lawsuit National Coalition for Men v. Selective Service System, the District Court ruled that the male-only registry was unconstitutional in February 2019. Congress has not taken action requiring women to register for the draft. Currently, all male U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 are required to register.

Draft registry requirements are based on the gender assigned at birth. Therefore, trans women are required to register, while trans men are not. However, due to the Trump administration’s ban on trans people serving in the U.S. military, a trans woman who was drafted would not be permitted to serve.

The tens of thousands of trans veterans who have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military remain eligible for full veterans benefits.

Veterans at Henry Ford College

Henry Ford College is a Veteran Friendly school and employer. We are proud to welcome all veterans and active-duty military members to our campus community.

Last May, we opened our new HFC Veterans Center in the Student and Culinary Arts Center. We take seriously our role in providing excellent, flexible education to our student veterans. We offer an array of services and assistance to veterans through our Veterans Services Office, led by our VA Certifying Official, Gail Bock.

Henry Ford College honors our veterans in various ways throughout the year. On Veteran’s Day, we often hold public observances led by our Student Veterans Association (SVA). This year, the SVA is holding a luncheon for veterans. Our Student Activities staff is hosting a card-making event. I will be attending several of these events.

We also work to make sure our faculty and staff are aware of student veterans’ needs and the services we offer them. Some of our staff and faculty members are themselves veterans. In early 2018, the Consortium of Michigan Veterans Educators offered training in military cultural competency to all HFC faculty and staff. About 70 HFC personnel took part.

As with all our students, Henry Ford College is committed to helping our veterans succeed in school and in life. I take this commitment personally. To all veterans and active military personnel, if you see me on campus, introduce yourself. I am here to support you.

Celebrations and observances

Cities and towns around the nation host Veterans Day parades, which often include active-duty military personnel and veterans, as well as local bands and community organizations. The Detroit Veterans Day parade was Nov. 9. The Detroit News ran an article about veterans’ efforts to “return patriotism to Detroit” through their Veterans Day celebrations.

The Dearborn Veterans Day Ceremony is held at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center on Veterans Day each year.

Major college and professional sports teams often host Veterans Day observances before, during, and after games. These can include special ceremonies, military-influenced game uniforms, and recognition of veterans on the court or field of play.

When you talk to veterans, it is common, and generally appreciated, to thank them for their service. If they seem interested in a conversation, you can respectfully ask them when and where they served, which branch of the military, and how long they served. Allow them to direct how much they wish to share about their experience.

Keep in mind that some veterans have experiences that may make them less interested in discussing their service. Like everyone else, veterans represent all sizes, shapes, colors, genders, religions, and personality types. They enroll in a broad variety of HFC programs. The best thing you can do to recognize their service to our country is be warm and friendly.

Today, our country is safe, open, and is ruled by its own citizens. This would not be the case without those who have made sacrifices and taken part in military service. Please join me in honoring all veterans on this Veterans Day.

Russ Kavalhuna