Veteran’s Day: Perspectives

Jr. Grace Miller (left) and Jr. Emily Voss (right) enjoying summer as kids on Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Courtesy Emily Voss

Jr. Grace Miller (left) and Jr. Emily Voss (right) enjoying summer as kids on Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

Emily Voss

On November 11, 2022, the students and staff of West Ottawa High School gathered in the main gym for an assembly to honor our veterans. The room was filled with deep emotion and great respect for those who served. As Sr. Joseph Skerbeck played Taps on the trumpet, hearts dropped to the saddening tune. And even as everyone fell silent to show respect, our veterans secretly wished there would be a chance for their stories to be heard.

Veterans have stories like none other. They learn lessons that can only be learned during their time in service. How can new generations apply these military learned lessons to their own daily lives as American citizens?

The military is a place for Americans of all kinds to come together and serve their country. It’s home to those who want to continue making America great. “It’s possible to take people from different cultures and colors and put them side by side to form a family of sorts that will come together to do what needs to be done to protect our freedoms,” said Naval Submarine Veteran Don Vriesman. Those who serve in the Armed Forces look past skin color, heritage, political views, and more. They become a family that ignores each other’s backgrounds, a lesson that every individual should learn.

Americans today have a tendency to use our differences against each other. But in the military, soldiers come together and serve as one. There is no place for hate in the world. Whether one is white or black, Republican or Democrat. Why do we feel the need to hate on others for having different views? Why can’t we come together as what unites us most: being an American?

With being enlisted in the military comes great respect and responsibility. “I have learned to respect everyone. I have learned to be responsible for myself and my actions. I have learned to work together with others to find solutions to problems,” Vriesman said. Respect for those with a higher ranking is expected and any disrespect will not be tolerated in the Armed Forces. The same lesson can be applied outside of the military. Learning to respect the elder and the more experienced is a lesson that, if done correctly, can bring us together more as a nation.

Taps is an instrumental song played every weeknight on military bases at 10pm to signal the end of the day. It’s also played to honor those who paid the ultimate price. Sr. Joseph Skerbeck took on the opportunity of playing the sentimental melody at West Ottawa’s Veterans Day Assembly in November. “It is always difficult to play the piece from an emotional perspective due to the song’s weight; everyone knows the notes to Taps, so making a mistake is not an option,” Skerbeck said. Taps is the song of deep respect for those who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms, played at not just 10pm every night, but at funerals of veterans as well. “While it is the largest crowd I play in front of for a performance, I leave no place for anxiety because I play with the perspective of what their sacrifice means,” Skerbeck said.

Respect is expected during Taps. It’s about the sacrifice soldiers have made for our nation. That same respect should be shown to everyone, whether they served in the military or not.

Jr. Grace Miller grew up on military bases. Her dad was enlisted in the Navy for 26 years, retiring in June of 2021 with a Master Chief ranking. “One lesson I learned from my dad is to stay faithful to what you believe and love. All the time he gets calls and messages from his old Navy buddies; some just want to check in, others invite him to their retirement or as guests to the Navy ball. He’s been faithful to the Navy for so long, and it shows. Everyone that I’ve met in the Navy or even any branch also shows it,” Miller said.

Staying faithful to the ones you love is such an important lesson to learn. It’s never turning your back on someone, rooting for the same team every year despite their stats. In the military, faithfulness is never losing love for the country you served. Veterans have stayed faithful to America for a long time. As citizens of the nation they fought for, the least that can be done is stay faithful and have hope for America as well.

America’s veterans are nothing short of brave. For years, they put their lives on the line for what we have today. Retiring from the military comes with not only the great honor of serving this nation, but also significant lessons that can be applied to daily lives for the rest of time.