From 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11 on the Sunken Garden, the Student Veterans Association of the College of William and Mary and the Reserve Officer Training Corps hosted the inaugural 100th Armistice Day Celebration Event to commemorate a century passing since the Allied Powers and Germany signed the armistice that ended World War I.
Every year for Armistice Day, SVA rings the bell at the Sir Christopher Wren building at 11 a.m. to recognize and celebrate student veterans attending the College. However, because it is the 100th anniversary of the armistice, SVA wanted to create a bigger event that would not only celebrate veterans, but also bridge the divide between student veterans and the rest of the College’s student body.
“One of my focal points as president was I wanted to broaden the interaction between the broader student body and student veterans on campus,” SVA President Corey York ’19 said. “A number of our student veterans have come in contact with students who said that they didn’t know [the College] had student veterans.”
York hopes the event will become an annual affair that will showcase military activity in a fun way so that students, whether they are veterans or not, can interact with, get to know and understand each other.
There was limited turnout for the event, with many attendees representing the five branches of the military. ROTC, SVA members, and active-duty U.S. Coast Guard members were also present at the event. Many veterans brought their families and, during exercise breaks, stories of many of the attendees’ experiences in the military were shared over cupcakes and coffee.
SVA Student Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Jack Horner ’21, who served 22 years in the Coast Guard, said that he was actually surprised by the turnout and was expecting a lot less people to attend.
Next year, Horner hopes to increase turnout specifically among the College’s general student body as well as increase funding for the event.
“We’re not sponsored yet by the College, so we don’t get funding like other groups on campus do, so we’re really looking for donations this year,” Horner said.
The event hosted its first annual Colonial Warrior Challenge, which consisted of five stations of military-oriented physical activity. Participants were led in a warm-up before the exercises began.
Two rounds of the Warrior Challenge occurred with different members of ROTC participating in each round. Active-duty members and SVA members participated in both rounds. Participants would partake in the activity at each station for a total of three minutes.
Station one was titled “Burpee Blowout,” and in round one, participants were required to complete both normal burpees and half-raised burpees, which required participants to enter a squat position after completing a push up.
In round two, participants had to complete a standard burpee and burpees that included a diamond pushup.
Station two, “Water Jug Cone Competition,” required participants to run between cones carrying massive military water jugs. Station three, titled “Core Mania,” had participants doing a variety of core exercises, including V-ups, flutter kicks and planks.
Station four, “Buddy Drag and Litter,” consisted of two different teams racing against a clock to carry a Mr. Orange dummy that is designed to simulate carrying the weight of a body. Lastly, station five, “Squat Burnout,” had participants squatting for the entirety of the three minutes. ROTC member Thomas Harwood ’19 said the event encouraged participants and observers to remember the work and sacrifice of veterans.
“This day is very important to me because it reminds us of the sacrifices that people have made in the past for us,” Harwood said. “It is a really good opportunity for us to show our support to student veterans. I am looking forward to the Mr. Orange man station. It’s an orange dummy filled with sand that you have to carry around.”
SVA also hosted its 100th Armistice Celebration to raise money for the Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Foundation. T-shirts and 550 cord bracelets were sold with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the organization. The t-shirts for the event were donated for free from an anonymous donor.
A total of $350 was collected for the foundation from t-shirt and bracelet sales. Horner selected the foundation as the recipients of the funds due to his service with the Coast Guard. According to Horner, the Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Foundation is an organization that he trusts and donates to. According to Lt. Coast Guard Maritime Security Response Team and Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Foundation representative Brian Hills, the SVA plans to rotate and donate to a different nonprofit each year.
“Being the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, I think there is kind of a unique understanding of the lineage of this day,” Hills said. “People know it as Veterans Day, so it’s unique to reflect on the history. It’s nice coming out, get in a workout, do some challenging things and meet new people who have similar but different experiences.”
As a finale to each round of the event, a tug of war took place between active-duty members, ROTC and SVA. In round one, active duty and ROTC squared off, with the active-duty members defeating ROTC members in less than 10 seconds.
Active-duty members then squared off against SVA members, with the former taking home the victory in round one. In round two, active-duty members defeated ROTC again, but lost against SVA.
“It was just kind of friendly competition to see if it was the old broken-down vets or the young new bucks that are coming up who’s going to win and give some trash talking rights for a year,” York said.
York said that he hoped the student body walked away from the event with a better understanding of the veteran community.