Honoring Veterans – 11.12.21

Dear College of Science Faculty and Staff,

In my ‘treasure drawer’ is a war medal awarded in 1919 to my maternal grandfather, Albert. When I asked mom whether he’d earned this because he was injured, she responded that she’d never met a soldier who was not injured in body or mind. Her sobering insight has stayed with me, and the Wilfred Owen poem from the same era remains true as it ends:

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

(the Latin translates as: “It is fitting and sweet to die for one’s country”)

The opportunity provided by the Armed Forces can be lifechanging in a positive way. Our Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who comes from modest upbringing and a small town in Georgia, not only forged an eminent military career but has broken multiple racial barriers. However, of course, the point of the military is to fight, and the horror of war is hard to grasp. I avoid violent movies but watched American Sniper which I thought gave insight into the terror and skill involved, and the devastating legacy for soldiers who had acted on behalf of the United States. I watched Eye in the Sky, concerning drone warfare, where precise killing can be controlled remotely, with no less devastating effects on everyone involved.  And I watched my neighbor come back from multiple tours in Iraq, that had affected our community deeply to worry whether he would be okay. Trying not to be awkward, I left a gift basket with a ‘welcome home and thank you’ note on his front doorstep.

Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans – living or dead. It originated on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I and became a national holiday in 1938.  Yet we cannot acknowledge veterans in a meaningful way in just one day. Associate Dean for Equity, Randall Hughes encourages that we should listen to their voices, advocate for mental health and other support, and hold our military and political leaders accountable to address discrimination and harassment in the military.

Best regards,

dean signature

Hazel Sive PhD
Dean, College of Science
Northeastern University