Friends Select Must Do More On Veteran’s Day

Friends+Select+Must+Do+More+On+Veteran%27s+Day

On November 11th, cities across the U.S celebrate Veterans Day with parades, sales, and community service. However, Friends Select students spend the day like any other. No one mentions Veterans Day or what it stands for.Veterans Day, formerly called Armistice Day, is a federal holiday celebrated on November 11th meant to be a day of celebration and commemoration for U.S veterans. Most Americans have the day off, including students as public schools close, but Friends Select doesn’t follow suit. 

Why? Friends Select is a Quaker school, and Quakers don’t support the military. Therefore, It doesn’t make sense for Friends Select to celebrate Veterans Day, right? Last year, I would have agreed without question. Now, I can’t. 

This summer, I spent my weekdays, nine to five, teaching veterans how to use computers, and what I learned besides a deeper meaning of the word patience and the almighty power of Ctrl-Alt-Delete is that veterans, despite stereotypes, are a mixed bag. 

I would spend time with West Point graduates, Princeton graduates, 95-year old WWII nurses, and 25-year-old homeless veterans all in the same day, and what struck me most was that the majority of them, no matter who they were, suffered from something as a direct result of war. Sometimes it was physical, but more often than not, it was more than that. It was PTSD, Schizophrenia, distrust of their government, and fear of their own country. They weren’t interested in war. They weren’t in favor of war. They were afraid of it. 

I have to stress that veterans are not inherently violent. They do not automatically, as Veterans, support the wars they fought in, the wars the U.S involves itself in, or war in general. Like any group of people, they deserve respect, and at the most basic level, If Quakers truly accept that “there is that of God in everyone,” then that should extend to Veterans too.  

Look, I get it. Quakers are pacifists, and they are against violence, war, and the military, but that does not mean that they cannot support or respect veterans. If anything, neglecting to show respect for veterans, as is done now, directly conflicts with the Quaker mission. When Friends Select as an institution consciously chooses to ignore Veterans Day, they also choose to ignore the testimonies of integrity, community, equality, and stewardship.

Quakers strive to “treat others with respect and honesty” and teach “that everyone has a piece of truth.” 10 million American men were drafted to serve in the armed forces in WWII, 1.5 million in the Korean war, and 2.2 million in the Vietnam war. Why, on Veterans Day specifically, a holiday created solely to show them respect, do Quakers turn a blind eye? How can Quakers disregard their struggle or sacrifices without discussing their experiences or accepting their “piece of truth”?

If Friends Select administrators hope to engage or connect fully with all members of their community, then they must acknowledge all members of that community. Because more than 7% of Americans are veterans, there is no way to avoid having veteran parents and grandparents send their kids to Friends Select. If FSS chooses to disregard Veterans Day, they choose to disregard these people.  

Let’s put this into perspective. Imagine if no one at school acknowledged 9/11 on September 11th or a religious holiday you celebrate on the day of that holiday: wouldn’t you feel as though your experience or perhaps even your religion wasn’t valid or accepted by the community? As a Quaker school,  its Friends Select’s job to make sure that no one feels like that. 

Most veterans experience immense hardship. According to a poll of over 33,000 veterans of all ages done by the Wounded Warrior Project, over 78% of veterans have PTSD and 6% are experiencing homelessness. Compare this with the general U.S population, bearing a predicted 3.6% of people with PTSD and 0.0017% of people experiencing homelessness, and there’s a gigantic discrepancy.    

Veterans aren’t deserving of our rebuke or even our disregard. If Friends Select students and faculty hope to be true stewards of their community, they must interact with all parts of it. They simply cannot approach Veterans Day with silence because ignoring Veterans Day is not a statement about how Quakers feel about war. It’s an implicit message that we, as a school, do not care about veterans, a group of people as deserving of our respect as any other. That is simply not what Quakerism is about. 

So, what should we do as a Quaker school on Veterans Day? Well, we must acknowledge that it is, in fact, Veterans Day and that there are people in our community at school and others that care immensely about this day, but I also don’t think a simple acknowledgment is enough.

This past Veterans Day, instead of being in school with the rest of my classmates, I spent the day volunteering with Helping Hands, the service club I lead, giving out coats to those experiencing homelessness in the Philadelphia area. Many of these people were veterans. Being able to help them in the little ways that I could with a coat or a smile on their day was an amazing experience. It was educational, selfless, and rewarding. It was more than acknowledgment. As Quakers and as stewards, this should be the role of Friends Select on Veterans Day.

 

 

Works Cited

Drafthistory.html, http://gorhistory.com/hist111/drafthistory.html.

Meeting the Spirit – An Introduction to Quaker Beliefs and Practices, http://quaker.org/legacy/charlestonwv/meeting-the-spirit.html.

Meeting the Spirit – An Introduction to Quaker Beliefs and Practices, http://quaker.org/legacy/charlestonwv/meeting-the-spirit.html.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd.shtml.

“S-P-I-C-E-S: The Quaker Testimonies – Connecticut Friends School.” Friends Journal, 10 June 2015, https://www.friendsjournal.org/s-p-i-c-e-s-quaker-testimonies/.

“State of Homelessness.” National Alliance to End Homelessness, https://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-report/.

“The NCSL Blog.” Veterans By the Numbers > National Conference of State Legislatures, http://www.ncsl.org/blog/2017/11/10/veterans-by-the-numbers.aspx.

Woldenberg, Will. “On Veterans Day, Do More than Say Thanks: Opinion.” Https://Www.inquirer.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 9 Nov. 2018, https://www.inquirer.com/philly/opinion/commentary/veterans-days-volunteer-service-community-20181109.html.