One tour in Saudi Arabia, two tours in Afghanistan, 28 years in the Marine Corps: My father is a proud veteran who has spent most of his life serving and fighting for the United States.
He and other veterans get one day each November to be recognized for their service and sacrifice, and I am unable to observe this significant holiday with him because I have to go to class. Veterans Day is a federal holiday, so nonessential government offices are closed; federal employees, including service members, are given the day off to observe. Private institutions, however, can decide whether to remain open.
Of the eight federal holidays that fall within the regular academic year, Georgetown University cancels classes for all but Veterans Day. To give students the opportunity to observe and truly appreciate Veterans Day, Georgetown should cancel classes as it does for other federal holidays.
As a result of the elimination of the draft-based system in 1973, the U.S. military has become an all-volunteer force. One consequence of this change is the general decreasing number of close connections to and awareness of the military among U.S. citizens. The lives of service members and their families are increasingly hidden from the public eye, and when their lives are hidden, so are their problems. This separation contributes to the lack of understanding civilians have of the military, often referred to as the military-civilian gap.
The military-civilian gap describes a separation between the lives of military service members and those of civilians. For the most part, many military families live their lives separate from the civilian world, as larger military bases provide enough services that people don’t have to leave the base. The true depth of the divide shows when service members begin to transition out of the military and reintegrate into the civilian world. Veterans may find living in the civilian world difficult, while some civilians and businesses may not understand the needs of career veterans recently separated from the military.
If there were no classes on the observed Veterans Day, students would have the opportunity to reflect on veterans’ sacrifice and attend events or other programming to help bridge the gap from the civilian side.
Georgetown celebrates its military-connected students and faculty by observing Military Awareness Month in November with a host of events open to anyone, regardless of military connection. On Veterans Day, Georgetown will host three events, but the timing makes this programming largely inaccessible to students given class schedules.
The official Georgetown University Veterans Day Ceremony and Reception will take place on the main campus in Copley Formal Lounge, but many students, including myself, will be in class when it starts at 3 p.m. and will still be in class when it finishes. The two other events begin later in the day, at times during which many students may still be in class. Classes on Veterans Day deprive us of valuable opportunities to learn about and engage with the military-connected community at Georgetown.
For me and others related to veterans, classes on Veterans Day are an annual frustration. I am unable to celebrate with my dad on a day meant for him, a day meant to recognize his contributions to this country, a day meant to honor him for selflessly putting his life on the line countless times. Every year, I feel guilty for choosing my education over my father on a day as important as Veterans Day, because of fear of my grades dropping. I should not have to choose at all.
The issue at hand is not just about having the day off or cancelling classes but rather celebrating honor and respect. Georgetown should be demonstrating these values by providing students a day to reflect or spend time celebrating with the veterans in their lives.
I am grateful to my father for all he has done for me and for the United States. At his retirement ceremony in May, emotions ran high as he was recognized for all his accomplishments during his almost three decades of service, many of which I learned about that day. I saw so much support for him and so much pride. Veterans Day is the perfect opportunity to show this pride year after year.
I am proud to be the daughter of a veteran, and I tell my father that every day. But to have the opportunity to show him and other veterans my support for them on their holiday would mean so much more.
Venishea Smith is a sophomore in the College.