November 11 marks a historic day in United States history. Originally, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day, because it was the day peace was agreed upon to bring an end to The Great War (World War I) in 1918. The following year, in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson publicly commemorated this anniversary of this important day: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

A few years later, Congress moved to establish the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery and held a ceremony honoring those who fought in the war. This day has continued to be set aside as a time to honor and express gratitude for those who have served in the Armed Forces.

Each year, Student Leadership University takes students to Washington, D.C., for our SLU 201 program. We participate in a private wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Ashlyn Redmond, one of our SLU Student Ambassadors, reflects on her day at Arlington during the summer of 2015:

“At SLU 201, I was honored to have a VIP tour of the Arlington Cemetery, leading us to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

When we got to the top of the stairs, my heart began to pound hard. One of the guards gave each of us students laying the wreath a strong handshake and specific orders in what to do. In my mind, I was so nervous I would forget what to do! 

Finally the time came. We marched down the stairs in an orderly manner, placed our hands on the wreath, and saluted as they played ‘Taps.’ 

As the song played, my mind raced. I was standing where Presidents have stood. I was a part of one of the most honorable ceremonies.

Wow.

I stood at the top of the steps looking out at the marble tomb. The wind slapped my cheeks as if to remind me that this was real life. I was about to lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Laying the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was such a privilege and a memory I will cherish always.”

As we stand in silence at Arlington National Cemetery, walk the beaches of Normandy, or simply pause for a few minutes in the midst of a day dedicated to honoring veterans, we reflect on those who have gone before us and fought to establish and protect freedom. Our hope is to instill in our students a deep sense of patriotism and gratitude for those who have served our country.

On this Veterans Day, we want to encourage you with a few suggestions to show your appreciation to those who have served in our military:

1) Take a veteran out for a meal. Today, Chick-fil-a is honoring veterans with a special table and a free meal for veterans at their restaurants. Restaurant guests also have the opportunity to write a thank-you note to military servicemen and women.

2) Post on social media expressing your gratitude for our veterans.

3) Make a personal phone call to a veteran you know, thanking them for their service.

4) Work with your youth group or school to serve veterans in your community. Volunteer to clean their home, mow their yard, or do repairs around the house.

5) Visit a veteran who is in the hospital or send them a care package.

Our entire SLU family is incredibly grateful for the service and sacrifice of both our veterans and those currently serving in our military!


Resources:

http://www.history.army.mil/html/reference/holidays/vetsday/vetshist.html

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