Reflections on Veterans Day

Jackie Pisani
To commemorate Veterans Day, students participated in an assembly and listened to the significance of this day. Dean of Students Will Gilyard spoke of his own family members who serve to defend the Constitution. He related that this past weekend he met a sergeant who expressed that leadership is about sacrifice and leaving a positive impact on the world.

History teacher Scott Dunbar explained the historical context of the day but reminded students that this memorial is not just a celebration of Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I but to reflect upon who we are as a nation. In 1954, President Eisenhower changed the name of the day to Veterans Day to honor those who served in World War II, as well. There are over 20 million veterans in the United States today, and we are more than likely connected in some way to them through grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who have served.

Richard Chiarappa related his experience as a young man who served in the National Guard in 1970, a tumultuous time in this country with many young people opposing the U.S. war in Vietnam. As a college senior at Fairfield University with an English degree, Chiarappa was scheduled to head to law school in Boston. However, the lottery for the draft was instituted. Chiarappa explained that those with numbers over 200 would not be drafted and those with numbers under would be. Mistakenly, Chiarappa thought his number was not called, however, his future wife informed him that it was. His number was 51. “I had to prepare for what that was and what that meant. Some people left the country. Others were conscientious objectors. And, others were willing to enlist. I wasn’t going to do something against my nature since my father and uncle served in World War II. I wasn’t about to avoid service,” he said.

Chiarappa admitted that he was frightened, and he joined the engineering unit of the national guard stationed in Stratford, Connecticut. Although he and many in his unit were not trained, they were deployed to New Haven near the Yale campus to control the protests over the Black Panther trials. “Very simply, we had not been on active duty. We had not been trained. We had uniforms. They put us on a rise so we would be a show of force to prevent any uprising. We stood in a circle looking out at the crowd with our rifles that I had never fired, with our gas masks on that we had never used, and bayonets at the end of rifles that we had never used. Talk about frightening. We didn’t know what we were doing. I just prayed. I remember the fellow standing next to me. He bent down to fix his boot and put the bayonet through his gas mask. We knew nothing in terms of training. Thankfully, nothing happened.”

Chiarappa encouraged the students to thank a veteran when they see one on the street. “They were selfless, and they served because they believed in something bigger than themselves,” he said.
Located in West Hartford, CT just steps from Blue Back Square, Kingswood Oxford is a private school inspiring co-ed day students in grades 6-12 with a college preparatory curriculum. Empowered students become clear confident communicators, resourceful problem-solvers, and ethical leaders. KO: where unlimited potential meets endless opportunities.
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