Release Date: 
Wednesday, November 11, 2020

What Veterans Day means

Veterans Day graphic

This message is one of many 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 Wednesday, November 11, 2019, we celebrate the federal holiday of Veterans Day.

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 originated on November 11, 1919, when U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it Armistice Day to honor veterans of World War I. I wrote about the history of this holiday last year. I encourage you to read it.

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, Marines, and Coast Guard, and those who served for qualifying periods in the National Guard and Reserves. Veterans include those who have served during peacetime or war time.

Not all U.S. military veterans are U.S. citizens. Each year, about 8,000 legal permanent residents serve in the U.S. military.

The U.S. currently has an all-volunteer military. But that has not always been the case. Men have been conscripted (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. Women have never been conscripted.

Veterans at Henry Ford College, and 2020 tributes

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.

We maintain a Veterans Center in the Student and Culinary Arts Center when our campuses are open. 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. Our services are being offered remotely during the pandemic.

On Veteran’s Day, we usually hold public observances led by our Student Veterans Association (SVA). This year, we are not able to hold on-campus events, but Gail Bock and the Student Veterans Association have been working to help us tell the stories of some of our student veterans. One such story is a family tribute to Private First Class Christopher Sroka. You will find his story on the HFC website.

Several other student veteran stories are on our 2020 Veterans Day tribute website.

The Student Veterans Association has created a 2-minute video thanking America’s veterans, and I encourage you to watch it.

Henry Ford College is committed to helping our veterans succeed in school and in life. I take this commitment personally. I am here to support you, whether you are a student or a faculty or staff member.

Celebrations and observances

Most years, 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. This year, as with nearly all holidays, celebrations are reduced or changed.

The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn will host a free Veterans Day event on Nov. 11. All military veterans and their families will be admitted at no charge with a military ID.

When you talk to veterans, it is common, and generally appreciated, to thank them for their service. Some veterans have experiences that may make them less interested in discussing their service. The best thing you can do to honor them is be warm and friendly.

Today, our country is safe, open, and is ruled by its own citizens. Your opportunity to vote freely in last week’s presidential election is due, in part, to those who have made sacrifices and taken part in military service to protect our democracy. Please join me in honoring all veterans on this Veterans Day.

Russ Kavalhuna