Some of your fellow classmates have used deadly force to eliminate threats on the battlefield. Others have witnessed their friends carried off by stretcher bearers. Students at Eastern Michigan University have shed their blood on foreign soil and lived to tell their tale in public speaking classes and creative writing essays.
Veterans Day is a chance to honor those who fought for freedom, and EMU has a community of warfighters worth mentioning.
EMU alumnus Ron Karr graduated in 1976 with a master’s degree in business. He served as an Army infantryman during the Vietnam War and said experiencing combat had an immense effect on his general outlook.
“In my life, I have had a lot of energy and have done a lot of things,” he said. “I’m carrying on for those that didn’t survive.”
Karr was wounded during combat operations on Nov. 12, 1969. A visible scar on his forearm can attest to the grisly attack that killed two of his friends and fellow soldiers, Dennis Ross and Kenneth Caswell. Ross was from Parker, Kansas, and Caswell was a Michigander from Dearborn.
A memorial wall located in our nation’s capital is inscribed with the names of 58, 272 Americans who died during the Vietnam War. It is still too trying for Karr to view the wall dedicated to the fallen.
“Their names are on the wall in D.C., but it’s still too emotional to go visit,” he said. “Even at 63 years old, I still live with all that.”
Karr said he will reflect during the holiday.
“I think about my friends on Veterans Day, but I think about them most days,” he said.
There are more than 22 million veterans in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. EMU’s Military Resource Center said roughly 900 Eagles are student veterans and there are more than 100 veterans in the staff and faculty.
EMU senior Randy Dusman said his family will contribute to the Veterans Day celebration.
“My dad was in the Army and my sister was in the Navy,” he said. “We are probably just going to spend lunch at Applebee’s in between my classes.”Dusman was an infantry Marine who partook in the invasion of Iraq when the war began. He now studies electrical engineering and said Veterans Day is a chance to connect with others who share a military heritage.
“My favorite part is hearing from friends and family that are veterans and talking about their experiences,” Dusman said.
The holiday was initially called “Armistice Day” and created to honor those who served during World War One. It was changed to Veterans Day in 1958 by President Eisenhower to encompass all American military members.
Sergeant First Class Eric Albright serves in the National Guard and is the campus recruiter for EMU’s Reserve Officer Training Corps. He deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, and he worked as a fire chief dealing with crash and rescue. Albright also instructs ROTC cadets.
“If you know a veteran who served their country honorably, a simple thank you or handshake is all it takes,” he said.
“For me, it’s not about having a day off. Veterans Day is about giving back to those I served with and those that served before me,” Albright said.
EMU will host an event for student veterans emphasizing camaraderie and refreshments from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 14, at room 300 in the Student Center.
Some veterans have witnessed unimaginable trials and tribulations yet still strive to fit into social normalcy. Perhaps this holiday should be recognition of the hurdles so many of our bravest citizens face daily.
At 21, Audie Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of World War Two. He received 21 medals, including the Congressional Medal of Honor, and was credited with having killed, captured or wounded 240 German soldiers across Sicilian, Italian, French and German battlefields.
Murphy’s autobiography entitled “To Hell and Back” exclaimed a warrior’s desire for the simplicity of civilian life.
He wrote, “Gradually it becomes clear. I will go back. I will find the kind of girl of whom I once dreamed. I will learn to look at life through uncynical eyes, to have faith, to know love. I will learn to work in peace as in war. And finally-finally, like countless others, I will learn to live again.”
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