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What Veterans Day means to these DSST veterans

A note from Dr. Aaron J. Griffen, VP of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Veterans Day has very real and diverse meanings. For some, Veterans Day may be the day to remind us of the freedoms we are offered by the U.S. Constitution. For others, Veterans Day may be the day we visit our fallen. And for some, it is a day that may have some frustrations, and that too is to be honored. For veterans and their loved ones, Veterans Day has a very personal and diverse meaning. We have compiled personal stories from veterans below:

Manuel Garza, Staff Sergeant, US Army 2001-2009, 3d Special Forces Group (Airborne) Military Intelligence - Student Teacher/Intern, DSST College View Middle School:

  • What Veterans Day means to me is the chance to recognize those who took the call to defend our nation’s freedoms. Many of us veterans enlisted for different reasons, but we all joined because we believe this nation is a land of opportunity for everyone of different cultures, ethnicities, and beliefs among other freedoms. Veterans Day also serves as a day to not just honor the living but also to remember those fallen soldiers who sacrificed their lives so that we may live.

John McMullen, Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy Reserves, 4years active duty/3 years reserves duty - English Teacher, DSST Aurora Science and Tech:

  • For me and many others who have served, Veterans Days is a moment to reflect on the sacrifices that service members have made and why they made those sacrifices. Members of the armed services often sacrifice more lucrative careers, time with their families, and in the worst-case, their lives. Our service members make these uncommon sacrifices to safeguard our country, and in turn, the amazing freedoms we enjoy in this country. I am proud to have served in the United States Navy for this noble cause. I am also proud of my son Tynan, currently a Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. I am proud that my son has chosen to serve his country through military service. I am also very scared of the harm he faces. But I am even happier that he realizes the importance of public service, and that this duty cannot simply be left to others. I would be equally proud if he committed himself to public service through teaching.

Gregg Kantz, Sergeant, U.S. Army 1992-1998 - Apprentice Teacher DSST Green Valley Ranch Middle School:

  • I feel we should honor those who have chosen service and it is important to recognize their sacrifices. Veterans Day should be a day of somber reflection, where -- as a community -- we think about the place of veterans in our society and how they are treated after their duty. It should be a day where we recognize the terrible toll our soldiers have paid over the last twenty years and the quality of care they receive once they are home. A day when politicians take real action in reforming the VA and the people hold their representatives accountable. Veterans’ Day should be a day where every American recognizes the horrors and needless waste of armed conflict and chooses, as a society, to affirm that we should only send soldiers into harm’s way as a last resort.

Casandra Broaddus, Sergeant in the Army Reserve - English Teacher, Green Valley Ranch Middle School.

  • As an English major who knew I wanted to teach, I went in wanting to do journalism but was pushed into the Military Police Corps. I actually struggle with Veterans Day, so I admittedly avoid being celebrated each year. When folks thank me for my service, I usually respond with "If you want to thank me for my service, work for peace."

Derek Laux, Senior Airmen, U.S. Air Force in Security Forces, 2000-2006 - Dean of Students, DSST Conservatory Green Middle School:

  • I deployed to Ali Al Saleem Air Base and Al Mubarak Airbase during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. What Veterans Day means to me is the recognition of all members who had served for their country and how the communities I have been a part of coming together to have events that are dedicated to honoring those who had served.

Thomas Christopher Griffen, SMSgt, U.S. Airforce, 1984 to 2008, Combat Support Flight Chief and Italian Airborne Flight School Graduate - Older Brother of Aaron J. Griffen, VP of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, DSST Home Office:

  • The first thing I think about is my father, who lied about his age and joined the U.S. Army as a cook during WWII, achieved the rank of SSgt, and was also awarded a Purple Heart. I think about the 24 years I served, the 58 countries I have slept in, the things I was asked to do and how/why I did them without a second thought. This year, I think of Colin Powell -- an amazing man I spoke with several times -- his advice to me, and his warnings to, “Do your best always, yet, never stop watching”... Veterans Day is a day I reflect on how I became the man I am today. From Aaron: Veterans is a day I remember my brother Thomas (we call him Chris) leaving for the Air Force and for the first time the male figure I looked up to for protection was no longer in the house. It is a day I think about the sense of loss and worry he would not return. I think about my sister in law who served in the army and all my friends who left high school in 1991 and 1992 to fight in Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

Call to action

As we celebrate this Veterans Day we ask you to consider going beyond traditional draw and fanfare. In addition to thanking the veterans we know in our family and communities, please thank the following:

  1. Thank a DSST staff member who is a veteran.
  2. Thank a DSST staff member who is a family member, spouse and/or partner of a veteran.
  3. Thank a homeless veteran (and provide them some help - if we are capable)
  4. Thank a veteran struggling with mental health.

Lastly, consider donating to the To 10 Veteran Charities or the following Veteran organizations:

  1. Korean War Veterans Association
  2. Vietnam War Veterans Association
  3. Top 10 Wounded Veteran Charities

Below are a list of resources for your review: