Gonzaga’s department chair of military science, Lit. Col. Ed Adams, distinctly remembers working two particular days in 2005 and 2006 while serving our country.
“I worked Christmas and Thanksgiving both of those years,” Adams said. “Being in the Army, I’ve worked every conceivable holiday you can imagine. But that’s part of the game, we’re soldiers 24/7, 365.”
One day that is often an exception to this rule for soldiers is Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
However, Nov. 11 has come and gone at GU, and students and faculty attended classes and work just as they would on any other Monday.
That’s because GU doesn’t award students or faculty with Veterans Day off, nor has it ever in recent memory.
Most public places of work, including public schools and universities, have had Veterans Day off since the holiday’s conception in 1938, when it was known as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I.
That is why it’s strange for some that GU doesn’t award it as a day off, and this sentiment is shared by members of the veteran population on campus.
“When I came to Gonzaga last year, I was a bit upset actually that the school doesn’t observe Veterans Day,” said senior Richard Nyambura, a transfer student who served four years in the United States military before attending GU. “And I personally think that they should accommodate the holiday, because these are the individuals who put their lives on the line so we can celebrate every other holiday that we do.”
Veterans Day is a day set aside for U.S. civilians to pay respect to those, either in the community or in their lives, who have served this nation’s military. The question at GU is whether it is necessary for the university to give the day off in order for students and faculty to properly pay their respects to those who made a sacrifice for this nation.
And the opinion on the matter is split, even among members of the military community.
“If you are of the right mindset to celebrate Veterans Day in your heart, then I don’t think you need the day off,” Adams said. “I think that if you could find time in your schedule throughout the week before Veterans Day, and the week of, to properly celebrate it, then you’re doing a good job.”
“This school absolutely needs to give students the day off to properly celebrate, just like Founder’s Day,” Nyambura said. “On Founder’s Day we pay respects to those who had a vision to advance a Jesuit education, and then you have Veterans Day where we celebrate people who fought to protect our lives and freedoms, and I think they deserve the same amount of respect.”
Whether GU awards students the day off from classes or not, one thing is clear about Veterans Day; it’s a day meant to honor those who made the decision at one point in their lives to serve in the military.
“The choice to serve is a massive life decision that a very small percentage of the population chooses to do,” said Colleen Vandenboom, veteran’s coordinator and assistant dean for student involvement and leadership. “I think that when you begin to learn about the military experience, the hours and sacrifices that were made by these people, I think it feels like Veterans Day is the one chance where we get to pause and say thank you to those who served to help basically keep our freedom. I think Veterans Day is the one day out of 365 where we can take a minute to not take all of that for granted.”
Despite not following in the footsteps of public universities in closing down academic functions for the day, GU offered a number of different events on campus during the time around the holiday.
On Nov. 8, President Thayne McCulloh, a U.S. military veteran who served from 1983 to 1986, hosted his annual luncheon exclusively for veteran students, faculty and staff.
On Veterans Day, a display was put up on the first floor of the Hemmingson Center where students posted a picture of a veteran in their life, along with facts about the history of Veterans Day.
This gave students and staff a good opportunity to gain more perspective about what it means to be a veteran in this country.
“I’ve been working with our transfer and veteran population for four-and-a-half years at this point, and since then as you might imagine, everything I thought I knew about them has changed,” Vandenboom said. “Learning more from our student veterans, hearing their stories and learning about their experiences has become increasingly important to me.”
The GU ROTC program went off-campus on Monday to assist veterans in the community in putting on a flag ceremony to celebrate the anniversary of Armistice Day. Throughout the week before, Adams had alumni of the program who have since retired from the military, come in to speak during the program’s military science classes.
The ROTC program has a large alumni base, so them coming on campus connected current students who will serve with those who already have.
If other GU students are feeling as if they missed their opportunity to properly celebrate the holiday this year, they can always reach out to support veterans in multiple ways.
“You can certainly honor Veterans Day by working with a charity that works with homeless veterans, or Wounded Warrior [Project]. Those are both great ways to celebrate Veterans Day,” Adams said. “But another great way is to think about that veteran in your life, call them up and say thank you. That veteran in your life could be the business owner down the street that has the ‘I served’ sticker in their window, or it could be your cousin who did four years and then got out. Those are the people you should think about.”