It was in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that fighting ceased between the Allied Forces and the Germans in World War I. The date became known as Armistice Day, and later Veteran’s Day…a time when Americans honor those who have served in the military and fought in all wars to keep America free.
For almost a century now, Americans have paused on Veterans Day around the country to remember and recognize veterans for their service and sacrifice. Today, the University of New Mexico paused to honor its veterans in a solemn and reverent ceremony in the UNM Alumni Chapel with a Formal Flag Ceremony by the UNM Joint Service ROTC Color Guard.
UNM President Robert G. Frank delivered the opening remarks. “I grew up in a military family, the son of an Army officer, and attended Veterans Day ceremonies across the world,” Frank said. “My dad passed down to me, as we all should to our children, a personal appreciation for the dedication of the many other men and women who selflessly serve our country.”
Guest speaker Paul Roth, CEO of UNM Health System and Dean of UNM School of Medicine, shared what Veterans Day means to him. "My father served in the Navy in the Pacific Theater during World War II. To me, he exemplified the heroism and sacrifices of the people who serve in our armed services. He belonged to an amazing and inspiring generation of men and women who served and often gave their lives to protect our nation."
Other reflections on Veterans Day were provided by additional speakers including, Rowena Tachias. “The military spends millions of dollars and thousands of hours training our armed forces, creating highly effective, well-oiled and disciplined teams of service men and women,” she said. “But there is no training for the team called, the military family, no written rule book to tell us what to do or how to act. There is no rank, there are no promotions, and we earn no metals for being on this team.”
Tachias ended by asking the audience to take a moment to thank not only the veterans for their service but to thank and bless their families as well. “We, the military family are veterans too, of a sort---military family veterans, who have served their country and their soldier,” she said.
“In my eyes, a true veteran is someone who is humble, who quietly serves, protects, stands up to fight the fight that aren’t necessarily theirs, and watches over their community, like my father,” said Jonathan Yarmey, president of the Student Veterans of UNM. Yarmey became a disabled veteran and was discharged from the navy after six years of service.
“We still have vast amounts of veterans who suffer from injuries, PTSD and survivors guilt,” Yarmey said. “A veteran with PTSD may be subjected to misunderstandings, but the truth is they care so much about those they protected that they mentally will not allow themselves to let go. They are my heroes. They are who I serve, here at UNM and the greater community. When you see a veteran who is struggling don’t just say 'thank you,' try to understand, try and watch out for them, because trust me, they have and still are looking out for you. And for all of those in the audience, who are veterans, just know you’re my heroes.”
Today, another fallen hero, one of our own, was honored during the ceremony. Major Phyllis Pelky, a 1995 graduate of the UNM College of Education was killed in a helicopter crash in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, Oct. 11. Another name has been added to the memorial wall in the Alumni Chapel. Since its completion in 1962, the Chapel has been a hallowed place where heroes will never be forgotten.