On November 11, the nation will unite to honor the sacrifices made by our soldiers on Veterans Day, making it important for us to understand how our own EHPS and East Haven communities come together to celebrate.
In 1918 on November 11th at 11:00 am, World War I ended with a temporary cessation of fighting called an armistice. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the seeds of veterans day were planted. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared November 11 Armistice Day, a national holiday. While Armistice Day was mainly a day to honor veterans of WWI, after WWII and the Korean War, Congress renamed it to Veterans Day in 1954. Today it remains a day of parades and ceremonies to honor our American soldiers, but is no longer considered a national holiday.
The significance of this holiday makes it important to recognize what our own communities do to celebrate it. Mr. Adam Gardner, an EHHS history teacher, teaches two lessons to his classes about Veterans Day. One of them is later in the year as his students learn about WWI. They talk about how the war ended with Armistice Day and then evolved into Veterans Day. Mr. Gardner says, “So the purpose here is we’ve seen the soldiers’ experience as we studied WWI and hopefully the students get a better understanding of what these soldiers went through and what it means to be a veteran.” This later lesson is part of the timeline of history they study, but Mr. Gardner makes a special detour to the topic during November as well. The day before or after Veterans Day, Mr. Gardner says, “We take time as a class to read some letters from veterans and through that we get the soldiers’ experience very quickly and get a sense of their sacrifice and what they’ve had to endure and I try to end the lesson by encouraging the kids to write a letter to a veteran.” Mr. Gardner says the goal of this lesson is to have students understand the reason for the day off from school and the true meaning of honoring veterans on this day.
It’s not only our high school students who learn about Veterans Day. Jennifer Murrihy, EHPS Assistant Superintendent, describes what the elementary and middle schools in our district do. Some classrooms read books such as America’s White Table and Where I Live: CT while others study the branches of the government and learn about the contributions of people from Connecticut. She also says, “In preschool, our students make cards and they deliver them to the VA hospital. Some of our students study, like in our third grade, they study biographies and they may have a focus on, you know, influential veterans in Connecticut. And then, I think some of the middle school, they invite a veteran in to speak.” It is necessary for children to learn about the history of their country and the sacrifices made by veterans for them. From books to guest speakers, these younger students learn to understand what it is like for these veterans and grow to appreciate their experiences.
Beyond what teachers and students do in our school district, how East Haven and towns in Connecticut have celebrated are important as well. In an article by the New Haven Register from 2018, it says, “The Veterans Day ceremonies will take place on Sunday, Nov. 11, at the War Memorial on the East Haven Town Green beginning at 11 a.m.” It describes the various activities different towns were doing also such as parades, guest speakers, ceremonies, fundraisers, vigils and music. All of these events across Connecticut were made to celebrate our veterans and were just a small part of a nationwide celebration in 2018.
Ms. Murrihy says, “I think it’s important because veterans have represented all members of our country since the beginning of this country and they make a strong contribution to our community; they give up themselves and their families give.” With family members in the armed forces or retired from them, Ms. Murrihy understands the sacrifice military families make as well. For all they have given up, she says “we just really thank them for their contribution, keeping us safe and supporting our constitutional values.” The sacrifice and bravery of these veterans push us to recognize their contributions in whatever ways we can.
With many normal celebrations such as parades and ceremonies being canceled, we will have to adjust how we observe this holiday. Mr. Gardner suggests taking advantage of the opportunities technology grants us to honor veterans. He says, “Thanks to technology, instead of physical letters, email, video conference, make and send videos [and] utilize technology to communicate and share our respect and gratitude to veterans.” Taking the ways our EHHS and East Haven communities celebrate Veterans Day and transforming the ideas into activities that work during the pandemic shows all the ways that we can honor veterans this November.