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The History of Veterans Day and how UMaine recognizes its importance

Honored on Nov. 11, Veterans Day is a federal holiday which recognizes and honors veterans for their service to our country. There are many events and ceremonies held across the country and at the University of Maine in commemoration of these courageous people.

The origins of Veterans Day can be traced to the end of World War I. At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 an armistice went into effect at Compiègne in Northern France, suspending all warring conflict between the Allied Powers and Germany.

One year later, United States President Woodrow Wilson relayed a message to American citizens to recognize the importance of the date and the heroism of the U.S. soldiers who fell in battle. Wilson’s original idea was to commemorate the date with celebratory parades and suspension of all public work at 11 a.m. 

The U.S. Congress declared a resolution on June 4, 1926 that the observance of Nov. 11 would be recognized with proper ceremonies for World War I veterans. On May 13, 1938, a congressional act was passed that made Nov. 11 a legal holiday and was known then as Armistice Day.

World War II veteran Raymond Weeks is considered the father of the modern version of Veterans Day. Amidst the events of World War II and at the request of many veteran organizations, Weeks and veteran general Dwight D. Eisenhower had the idea to allow commemoration of all veterans alongside those who fought in World War I. 

Congress amended the previous act from 1938 and the holiday was renamed to “Veterans Day.”  On June 1 1954, Nov. 11 was officially recognized as National Veterans Day.

UMaine partners with the Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) on campus and recognizes National Veterans Day with various activities during “Veterans Week.” Tony Llerena is the associate director of VETS. His role is primarily to assist veterans and their family members, navigate higher education and to certify their GI Bill benefits. The office helps in serving over 400 students utilizing some form of Veteran Affairs (VA) and Department of Defense (DoD) benefits. VETS also provides advocacy, academic support and event programming for the UMaine student veteran community.

“We hold several events to celebrate our student veterans because many times they go unnoticed,” Llerena said. “It’s our opportunity to recognize them publicly and let them know that we appreciate them as part of our UMaine Black Bear community.”

On Monday Nov. 7 the annual flag raising ceremony was held on the University Mall outside of Fogler Library to commemorate UMaine veterans. The ceremony includes the raising of the U.S. flag as well as the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) flag to commemorate the entirety of the veteran community.

A reading and signing event was also held on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 9. It featured author Ryan Stovall and his new book “Black Snowflakes Smothering a Torch: How to Talk to Your Veteran.” Stovall himself served for seven years as a Green Beret in the United States Army Special Forces and used writing as a form of therapeutic outlet.

The book includes a series of poems and fictional stories which not only allow for average civilians to help better understand and connect with military veterans but also offers a voice for veterans to facilitate their experiences which include suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. 

Recognizing Veterans Day is important to those who currently serve in our military or those with  prior service. The history of the national holiday and its intended purpose has evolved over the past century to allow veterans of all types to be honored and welcomed, including those who are a part of the UMaine community. 

When I think of our student veterans, the words that come to mind are duty, service, sacrifice and leadership,” Llerena said. “These are qualities that we, as a campus, should embrace in all of our students and our student veterans come pre-qualified. Veterans Day was originally celebrated to mark the end of World War I but has now come to symbolize the service and sacrifice of all of our nation’s veterans for all time.”

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