In Honor of Veteran’s Day, President Dr. McKinney wrote this personal letter about those who served.
Personal Reflections on a Somber Day
Today is Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day.
The Armistice to end World War I, known at that time as the war to end all wars, was signed by and between the Germans and the Allies at 5 am on the morning on November 11th, 1918. The peace became effective at the 11th minute, after the 11 hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month.
There have been many wars since World War I. In a world in which people still resort to violence to settle conflicts, there is no doubt that there will be more.
In the U.S., the function of Veterans Day is slightly different from that of similar holidays in other countries. Unlike the practice in other countries, where this calendar date is set aside specifically for honoring those who died in action, Veterans Day in the US honors all American veterans, whether living or dead, killed in action, or deceased from other causes.
The official national remembrance of war dead in the US is instead Memorial Day, originally called ‘Decoration Day’, from the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers, which originated in the years immediately following our Civil War.
On a very personal note, I live in the Fallbrook community located in northern San Diego County, adjacent to the East Gate of Camp Pendleton. Often our home shakes and vibrates in the evenings as the result of major practice bombings at the Camp. In some instances these bombings cause significant fires which produce a haze of smoke over our home. At first, I was always upset when these events occur. Now, I have learned to to be thankful that they are only practices.
My wife is the manager of a retirement home. Her former husband is a marine who died. Her home town is Angeles City, in the Philippines, which was attacked in 1941 on the day after Pearl Harbor.
A resident of my wife’s retirement home is Dan Appleton, who is 96 years old, a survivor of Pearl Harbor who reads three newspapers daily. He was on the USS Pennsylvania in dry dock when it was bombed twice. He remembers all the numbers. The Pennsylvania was 1 of 8 battleships attacked, initially by 183 dive bombers followed by a 2nd attack of 170 torpedo bombers. I talk with Dan daily. I enjoy being with him and listen to him tell stories about his war adventures, including the Battle of Midway. Captain Dan still cries when he says he lost 12 academy classmates who were aboard the Arizona and are still there on board the ship which now acts as their collective tomb. Yes, I also tear up when I hear him talk. His memories of these times are vivid. They are a part of him, they will not go away. He says these memories of events, are as though they occurred yesterday. He says it has always been that way. Every day, he thinks of the bombs and hears them ringing in his ear. He thinks of the friends he has lost, as he cries. Two years ago, at the age of 94, he wrote a small book for the Navy regarding how they can improve the management of their fleets.
My first business partner, Bob Kleinops, served in Vietnam. I remember when we watched a movie together in 1984, he lost control of his mind and became hysteric as he relived being attacked in Vietnam. I had to take him to the hospital, where he stayed for days.
On this day a tear comes to my eye when I remember when my Dad died when I was much younger and I was given the folded American flag that was draped on his casket prior to him being buried.
It is easy for us today to thank those who served. However, what I think is most important is that we remember these heroes not only today, but that we remember them on each and every day we live as free citizens in this country. I make a point of taking Captain Appleton to visit places like the USS Midway in San Diego during my weekends. My wife takes him daily on car rides to get some ice cream and see the countryside.
Yes, it is important that we remember, not only today, but every day. To those who served for our benefit, we at Westcliff University say proudly – “thank you.”
Dr. David McKinney
|Captain Appleton and Dr. McKinney|