According to William Woodward, a history professor at SPU since 1974, who also served in the national guard for 25 years,Veterans Day is a time to pause and remember the importance of those who have served and those who continue to serve.
Currently serving as the president of the Pacific Northwest Historians Guild, Woodward presented the history of Veterans Day in Eaton Hall on Nov. 11. Students and veterans alike gathered to commemorate the past and present active service members.
This day originally honored those who had served during WWI, but that changed on June 1, 1954. On what was previously Armistice Day, Congress established Veteran’s Day to honor those who served in WWII, explained Woodward.
“There’s a whole lot of untold history here, in the stories of activities in the state, which brings us to today. If there’s a whole lot of history from the land, sea and air, then there’s a whole lot of veterans here,” said Woodward.
Washington is home to the 12th biggest veteran population in the U.S, with half a million living in the state. Washington’s veteran history began with the exploration of Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
Troops set up camp along the Oregon Trail to protect territory after the explorers came to settle in. This action of primary protection shows the importance of having military involvement from the beginning.
Woodward also discussed global projection of power and the key role that Washington plays in it. From the dry dock in Bremerton to the Moses Lake Air Force base and the Hanford Site, which produced plutonium for the atomic bombs used in the war, Washington has always been on the forefront of taking action to protect the Pacific Northwest.
Washington troops have participated in making a substantial amount of history, including the Washington National Guard supporting Operation Desert Field to capture Saddam Hussein on Sep. 16, 1990.
William Blees, the veteran navigator on campus, as well as the Student Veterans Association president and host of the Veterans Day event, works to create a safe environment for those coming into SPU from service.
“Since I just got out of the Navy in January, I am able to easily identify with the struggles the transition can have. A lot the time veteran’s will lose the comroderry they had, and they are used to working in a team and then will go on to working alone and that can be difficult,” Blees said.
Also in attendance was Leah Airt, the business and social science librarian and faculty advisor for the Student Veterans Association. Having been in the United States Army for eight years, Airt understands how being a veteran is not just one identity, but that there are many aspects that represent a person who goes into the military.
“There are many identities and background that can play into that word [veteran]. Even if you spoke to one veteran, another veteran is going to be completely different. That’s why it’s important to talk to a veteran. Sit down. Have a chat,” Airt said.
Blees understands the stereotypical misconception of a veteran to the civilian population, and wants to be that support system for the veterans transitioning back to regular life.
“After the Veterans Day event today, I just hope that people will recognize that there has been a long historical presence of the military in the Northwest, and they would remember why we celebrate Veterans Day and why we are thankful for veterans who have served and are continuing to serve our country,” Blees said.