Honoring veterans of all backgrounds

Julia Battishill

“I often think of those who have served this country in the armed forces honorably and admirably overseas, in theatres of battle and war, only to come home forced to combat and engaged in domesticated war” U.S. military veteran Trevor Gazes said.

Gazes, guest speaker at the Seattle Pacific University Veterans Day Ceremony on Nov. 13, spoke passionately about his fellow veterans of all backgrounds to a small crowd gathered in Tiffany Loop.

Veterans Day was nationally celebrated two days before on Sunday, Nov. 11 and was observed by school and business cancellations on Monday, Nov. 12.

“I was glad I was able to attend the event and appreciate the effort of the SPU Student Veterans Association for their role in planning and leading the event.” SPU President Dan Martin said. “It is always good to pause and reflect on the lives of those that have served us so well as members of our military.”

During the ceremony, the audience sat in front of the university’s flag pole in captive attention as several faculty members spoke about the holiday.

Gazes is a Marines veteran studying in seminary, and plans to serve as a military chaplain in the future. He is dedicated to racial equality and reconciliation.

In his speech, he openly rejected and admonished any discrimination against veterans of color, who he feels should be treated with the respect they deserve as servants of the United States regardless of their skin tone.

The discrimination he has witnessed his friends and fellow veterans experience in his time since returning from active duty has lead him to a passion for racial justice and equality.

“I think that if the melanin in my skin, my biology or my economics were any different, my life would incontestably be experienced in ways that would feel as though more turbulence had been … created,” Gazes stated, commenting on the unfairness he feels that veterans of color experience in our country.

He repeatedly stated that this inequality is “troubling, unsettling and upsetting.”

Gazes stated his support for the John Perkins Center, which has strong ties to our community at SPU, and the values that the Perkins family holds in regards to racial reconciliation.

“This Veterans Day, and every Veterans Day, is dedicated to John Perkins and his brother Clyde Perkins. The ministry and life of Dr. John Perkins lead him to serve in the army for three years. Clyde Perkins was killed in Mississippi in 1937 by a police officer after returning home from combat duty overseas during World War II,” Gazes reported.

He went on to explain that Clyde Perkins had received a Purple Heart for his service before his death, to appreciative nods and sounds of agreement from the small audience.

While the event was low-attendance, Martin insisted that this has no bearing on the importance of the day.

Although it was lightly attended, it was no less meaningful, as multiple speakers shared from their own military experience and reflected upon the meaning of the day in their own life,” Martin said. “I was grateful I had the opportunity to express a personal thanks for their service to the many veterans in attendance. Especially those who joined our campus ceremony from the Ballard Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.”

The Ballard Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was in attendance that afternoon in Tiffany Loop, and helped with the proceedings of the event throughout.

Each of the speakers was at one point an active member of some branch of the U.S. or British military, and they each had different perspectives and experiences to share.

Dr. Dale Cannavan, SPU professor of exercise science and an Ireland native, has an extensive resume.

It includes time at the British Olympic Medical Center, at the Washington State Patrol Special Weapons and Tactics Team, professional boxing, on the U.K. “Real-Tennis” Elite Squad, and British Weight Lifting. He also served for 13 years in the British Army as a physical training instructor.

His experiences shed light for SPU’s majority-American student body on other perspectives regarding Veterans Day: in the UK, this day is referred to as Remembrance Day, and, much like in the U.S., it remembers the lives lost in both World Wars and other bloody battlegrounds.

Specifically, the day itself refers to the signing of an armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, which signaled an end to hostilities in World War I.

In the U.K., this day is often celebrated by the wearing of red poppy flowers, due to John McCrae’s famous poem “In Flanders Field.” Cannavan read a part of the poem, which signifies  the mass amounts of fallen soldiers buried below the red poppies in the Flanders Field Cemetery.

Today, in the U.K. as well as the U.S., the day is used to commemorate all soldiers: those who have given their lives, those who survived and those who still serve.

“Veterans Day is important as it provides space to not only remember those who died in service to our country, but also recognize those who continue to serve today. It is appropriate to express thanks for their patriotic service that has protected the freedoms of our country,” Martin said.