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When will every day be Veteran’s Day?

Vet Day 2008

–by Kate Ferebee, U of U Veterans Day Commemoration Committee 2010

“No dogs or soldiers allowed on the lawn.”

That’s how a recent U of U Veterans Day honoree told me he had felt when he came home from World War II. Not Korea; not Vietnam. World War II, when the “greatest generation” was honored and revered for their service. When ticker tape rained down on crowds of well-wishers hailing our heroes as they came marching home from overseas. Still, this veteran—who rescued many men in territory where he wasn’t even supposed to be flying, who risked his own life on multiple occasions to recover men, and who retained his composure over great distances flying on less than an empty fuel tank—felt  unwelcome in his home country…

That is, he said, until November 11, 2010, when he was honored at the University of Utah Veterans Day Commemoration. With the help of a committee of people who are dedicated to veterans of all conflicts, I coordinate the annual Veterans Day Commemoration for the U. Each year, the University honors 11 Utahns who have seen combat. Their stories are incredible, and are too numerous to list. You can find all the bios of the men and women we have honored in the past 13 years online.

It’s interesting how this honoree felt. From what I understand, it’s not so different from how many returning veterans feel about coming home. The transition process is a difficult one. Not only are vets expected to return back to “normalcy” without talking about their experiences, but they’re also sometimes unsure how to proceed in a world that is not regimented. It’s important for organizations to embrace veterans. All veterans. They can sometimes feel like they are caught with a foot in two worlds. Especially those coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan right now. Every day, I hear stories of how veterans from these wars are returning to college campuses and yet they feel like they don’t belong. They look like a regular 22-year-old college student, but they’ve lived a life and seen some things that most of us will never see in our lifetimes. Fortunately for us. Instead of finding a place on a campus, they feel out of place. They feel like they don’t fit in with the kids who’s biggest worry is who friended them on Facebook or navigating a university campus. And, they don’t fit in with the retirees from past conflicts down at the local VFW post.

We need to find a place for our student veterans. Somewhere they can turn to get questions answered, and somewhere especially for them. I think we have a great opportunity for this in the National Center for Veterans Studies that has been created by the College of Social and Behavioral Science and SJ Quinney College of Law. Please keep our veterans in mind throughout the year. Our veterans have served the population of this country in ways we can’t and won’t imagine. Now is the time for us to answer the call and help them.

  • joan

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention–the sentiment and the new center. I would like to say, too, that the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’brien is a must-read for anyone interested in the Vietnam War and the mark it left on those who went and came back.