Hartford Public Schools Honors All Who Serve.

SPOTLIGHT on EXCELLENCE    Issue 19     November 9, 2012

Hartford Public Schools Honors All Who Serve.

Why do we celebrate Veterans Day?  Before World War I officially ended on June 28, 1919, the countries involved agreed to a cease-fire, or armistice, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. With all sides in agreement to stop fighting at this time, November 11, 1918, or Armistice Day, became known as the end of ‘the war to end all wars.’  In 1938, the United States Congress passed legislation making November 11, or Armistice Day, an annual legal holiday to commemorate world peace and honor the veterans of World War I.

 However, in the years after the passage of this legislation, the United States fought in two more wars, World War II and the Korean War.  In 1954, at the request of many veterans’ service organizations, Congress changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day in order to honor American veterans of all wars.

 Veterans Day was not always observed on the actual day until 1975 when President Gerald R. Ford signed into law that the annual observance of Veterans Day be returned to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. Since then the Veterans Day holiday has been observed on November 11 to honor the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country.

 Every year the Veterans Day National Ceremony takes place at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. with the laying of a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns.  The Tomb of the Unknowns is the final resting place for three unknown soldiers from World War I, World War II and the Korean War.  Since 1948 the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Old Guard”, has guarded the Tomb for twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the weather.

The stories of two veterans of the Hartford community:

Venitia Richardson

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The year was 1988 and the world was at peace when a young 18 year old woman from Brooklyn, NY got off a bus for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Over the course of the next several years life was certainly going to be transformed for Venitia Richardson, now the principal of Opportunity High School in Hartford.

 Motivated by the challenge of the U.S. Air Force, Ms. Richardson decided to join this competitive branch of the service as a first career step out of high school. After basic training, she went through technical and accounting training and was stationed in Aviano, Italy for two years. Iraq then invaded Kuwait and everything changed. Ms. Richardson and her unit were deployed to Saudi Arabia to set up bases for the U.S. military forces in 1990-91.

 As the only female in the unit, her participation in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, as the First Gulf War was known, was certainly a unique life experience. The work itself was challenging, and off the base there were major adjustments to a very different culture. In Saudi Arabia, women were to be covered, eat separately in restaurants and were not allowed to drive.

 Although Ms. Richardson certainly missed things that other young adults might have been doing back home, she speaks with great pride about her military experience as an opportunity to serve her country and be part of history. In fact, her desire to serve and make a difference was also what led Ms. Richardson to pursue college and her next career in public education.

 Veterans Day has special meaning to Ms. Richardson. She talks about how her thoughts reach beyond her own experience to the sacrifices of all those who have served.  Ms. Richardson hopes that students will honor our many veterans who have worked and fought for a greater cause.

Sergeant Juan Gonzalez

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Still active in the reserves, Army Sergeant Juan Gonzalez, parent of Jayden Gonzalez,  shares how Veterans Day took on a whole new meaning after he began his own service in the military. He urges us to remember the veterans who served before and after him and to never take their dedication for granted.

 Sergeant Gonzalez, now a parent of a student at Batchelder School, was a 1992 Bulkeley High School graduate when he decided to join the Army. He reported to Fort McClellan in Alabama for his basic training which, he remembers, was a lot different from being a teenager at home in Hartford! The long hours of training, the physical demands and just being away from family and friends for the first time prepared him for his military career. This was to include two years stationed in Germany during the 1990s. Sergeant Gonzalez recalls how he enjoyed the experience of travel in the U.S. and abroad as well as the accompanying experience of meeting people from so many different places.

 In 2007, as part of the Army Reserves, Sergeant Gonzalez’s 325th Combat Squad was deployed to Iraq for the Second Gulf War, also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. There were a lot of challenges ranging from a different culture to the many security concerns with the war in Iraq.  However, Sergeant Gonzalez also looks back on this time with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that he completed a mission.

Upon their return to the United States, Sergeant Gonzalez’s unit was greeted by an U.S. Army general and escorted back to Connecticut. Although also employed in another capacity, Sergeant Gonzalez found that his military experience motivated him to continue in the reserves and to seek more advanced training and promotion. He looks ahead to future service and challenges as a member of the United States Army.

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