Indiana University Veterans Day Flag Raising Ceremony in front of Maxwell Hall on the Bloomington campus. Decorative.
A Veterans Day Reflection


This article will be posted just a little over a week before the recognition of Veterans Day, and so I wanted to take a moment to reflect. I used to teach middle school. When I moved to Bloomington the school where I was hired had no formal way of recognizing veterans and their service to our country. I was so surprised. I assumed that all schools, especially public schools, in the United States required something such as a ceremony or convocation. By November 11 of my first year at that middle school I had a convocation organized complete with our school band and school choir participating, veteran guests and an essay writing contest on “What Veterans Day Means to Me.” Over the course of the 24 years I taught at that school, the Veterans Day program grew. It became one of my favorite days.

In addition to the school-wide program, I would also invite veteran guests to my classroom. In the early years, many of the guests were WWII veterans. I think all of those veterans were men, although I would explain to my students that women had critical roles as well such as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAC), the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Military Service (WAVES). In addition, women worked in the American Red Cross. Dr. James H. Madison, former chair of the Department of History here at Indiana University, wrote a wonderful story about Elizabeth Richardson who was a Red Cross volunteer in England and France. She would hand out doughnuts, coffee, cigarettes and gum to the American soldiers. The book is titled, Slinging Doughnuts for the Boys: An American Woman in World War II. I highly recommend you read it.

Guests also included veterans who had been held as prisoners of war. I distinctly remember the harrowing experience of one veteran who was held in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. He was marched to the beach and forced to kneel. The Japanese soldiers drew their swords as if to decapitate the captives, but they didn’t. This technique was used to intimidate the prisoners. Another veteran, Alfred Diamant, was a former political science professor of mine. He was born in Austria and came to the United States as a young man. He served in the US Army and his story was so touching as he shared his passion to fight for democracy while he watched his beloved home country invaded and taken over. I learned just recently that the school where I taught has greatly diminished its Veterans Day program from what it once was. That makes me sad.

My admiration and respect for American veterans was not instilled in me by chance, but, rather, it was taught to me by my father. My dad was too young to be called up for service having been born in 1936; however, the small Indiana town where he lived was dramatically impacted by the war and he would tell me stories. I especially remember the story of his relatives, the Plew family. They had two sons serving in WW II: one as a Marine and the other an Army officer. On December 7, 1941, while listening to their Delco radio, they learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor. My father and his parents drove to the Plew home and maintained vigil with them as they waited to hear more news. Their son who was in the Marines was at Pearl Harbor.

My father, Jack Peterson, a lifetime educator, had two mentors who were especially dear to him, and they both served in WW II. Harmon Baldwin was in the US Navy serving in the Atlantic Theatre during the war. I was fortunate to be at the dinner table with Dr. Baldwin and his wife, Ada, on occasion at my parents’ home and hear of Dr. Baldwin’s experiences. Dr. Baldwin was also one of the veterans gracious enough to visit my classroom and share his stories with my students. Another mentor was Charlie Fields. Charlie and my father become close friends while working in Indianapolis; my father as the Executive Director of the Indiana School Boards Association and Charlie as the Executive Director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. One of my favorite stories of Charlie’s was about his time at Iwo Jima. Most of you can probably envision that famous photo of the flag raising by the Marines there. Charlie would joke that if he had known that moment would have been made so famous, he would have scurried to the location and joined in the effort. Both Charlie and Harmon have passed away, Harmon living to a grand age of 100, and I am so glad that they shared their stories with me.

Over the years, the visitors to my classroom got younger. There were more veterans who served during the Gulf Wars, the Iraq War, and non-combat service. One veteran shared a particularly compelling story. He was part of the contingent that helped to secure the capture of Saddam Hussein. If I remember correctly, his particular role was to coordinate the route and transportation of Hussein upon capture to the detainment facility. He had spectacular photos. The students were mesmerized. There were also some truly sweet stories. Like one student whose parents both visited my classroom. The student’s parents were both in the Navy, the mother outranking the father so there was some good teasing connected to that. But also, the fact that they fell in love during their time while they were enlisted and their stories of adventures.

From my experience hosting veterans in my classroom, I know that not all military experience is a ‘good’ experience and that everyone has their own story to tell. My family does not have a military history, per se. My maternal grandfather was in the Navy. He was sent there by his father to ‘make a man’ out of him. My grandfather didn’t talk much about his experience as I remember, but he would share stories behind the tattoos he got while enlisted. My father’s younger brother, my Uncle Howard, served in Vietnam. The family speaks in whispers about possible exposure to Agent Orange; Uncle Howard doesn’t talk about his time in the Army. And there is the story of my older brother. It is a very sad story. A young man exposed to situations and circumstances that were not healthy for him which eventually led to a dishonorable discharge. Essentially, his life and his health took a nosedive from there. He now lives in Oregon, and I struggle to keep in contact with him. He has schizophrenia and I’m just grateful that when he is able, he seeks out and receives assistance from the Veterans Administration there.

As a public-school social studies teacher, I always felt a tremendous responsibility to teach my students about Veterans Day and the military. I’m not sure all teachers do, but I am encouraged by the available opportunities to learn more about our veterans and military! I am happy to know that Indiana University will be honoring veterans on Friday, November 10 with a flag ceremony. At 7:30 AM the IU Army and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps color guard will raise the flag of the United States at the Sample Gates Flagpole to thank and honor all those who served in the military—in wartime or in peacetime. The Center for Veteran and Military Students helps veterans and military-connected students make the transition from the military to IU and provides support and resources during their time on campus. This fall I have had the very exceptional and humbling experience of participating in the Veteran Trauma and Transparency Program, a collaborative effort of the Interprofessional Practice and Education Center and the IU Center for Rural Engagement. The goal of these workshops is to improve the care for veterans by enhancing future service providers’ understanding of military culture and experiences. I asked if I could participate as a Career Services attendee so that I might learn more about what veteran and military students might need at the O’Neill School.

If you are an undergraduate or graduate veteran or military student at the O’Neill School, please do connect with me. I am honored to be of service to you for your internship and job search and career needs. And I want the information on this Veterans webpage to be meaningful and relevant. I would like to hear your ideas regarding ways I can improve the content of this page.

Finally, if you are interested and able to make it to Camp Atterbury this Friday, November 3, there is a Veterans Days Event from 11 AM – 2 PM with many veterans related support services and agencies. I will include a list of possible services/agencies here. And, as I conclude this article, I want to say, “Thank you” to all persons who have served this county in the armed forces; you are appreciated.

  Veteran Benefit Administration (Indiana)

  Veteran Readiness and Employment

  Veteran Health Administration–Indiana

  Jesse Brown VAMC

  Veteran Health Administration–Northern Indiana

  National Cemetery Administration–Marion National Cemetery and Crown Hill National Cemetery

  Indianapolis Vet Center

  Military OneSource

  Marine for Life Network

  Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve

  Taxpayer Advocate ServiceIRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) 

  Social Security Administration

  Senior Medicare PatrolIndiana Area Agencies on Aging

  State Health Insurance Assistance Plans (SHIP)

  Indiana Department of Veteran Affairs

  Indiana Veterans’ Home

  Indiana Veterans Memorial Cemetery

  DWD/Indiana WorkOne/ Jobs for Veterans State Grant

  Indiana National Guard-Soldier and Family Readiness Centers (assists Veterans and their families as well)

  Indiana University Veterans and Military Services

  Ball State University Veteran Affairs

  Purdue University Veteran Success Center

  Indiana State University Veteran Services

  Ivy Tech Community College

  Library of Congress–Veterans History Project (materials only)

  Defense Finance and Accounting Services

  U.S. Department of Labor–Veterans’ and Employment Training Service (VETS)

  Indiana National Guard: Survivor Outreach Services

  Indiana National Guard: Office of Financial Readiness

  County Veteran Service Offices

  Indiana University: Center for Rural Engagement–Creative Arts for Veterans

  Veterans Court

  IDVA/Welcome Home Vietnam Veteran (FREE GIFT)

  Small Business Administration–Veteran-owned businesses and Vet Biz Central

  Indiana AgVets (supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Grant)

  Indiana War Memorials

By Becky Boyle
Becky Boyle Assistant Director of Career Services