Skip to main content

As Stanford honors their service, students reflect on the meaning of Veterans Day

To commemorate Veterans Day, wreaths will be placed in Memorial Court and Memorial Auditorium, along with a letter from President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, to honor members of the university community who have served or are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

During a recent Cardinal Football game, Stanford Athletics honored three members of the university community for their military service as the crowd showered them with applause.

During a Cardinal Football game on Nov. 5, Stanford Athletics held a Salute to Service ceremony honoring Stanford military service veterans (left to right) Darrell Green III, associate dean of students; Lyndsea Warkenthien, a junior majoring in computer science; and Joel Johnson, a senior majoring in symbolic systems. (Image credit: Stanford Athletics)

The Salute to Service ceremony in Stanford Stadium recognized the service of Lyndsea Warkenthien, a junior studying computer science in the School of Engineering; Joel Johnson, a senior studying symbolic systems in the School of Humanities and Sciences; and Darrell Green III, associate dean of students in the Dean of Students Operations Department.

Warkenthien said she had never experienced that kind of public recognition for her service.

“It was amazing and very humbling to be part of the ceremony,” said Warkenthien, who served as an intelligence specialist at the Naval Amphibious Base on Coronado Island, located in San Diego Bay in Southern California.

The ceremony was held the week before Veterans Day, the federal holiday observed annually on Nov. 11 to honor people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Continuing a campus tradition

Today, in an annual tradition, Stanford will place wreaths in Memorial Court and at the entrance to Memorial Auditorium – along with a letter from President Marc Tessier-Lavigne – to honor members of the university community who have served or continue to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. The wreaths will be placed by 11 a.m. in Memorial Court and outside Memorial Auditorium and will remain on display until 5 p.m.

On Veterans Day a memorial wreath is placed at Memorial Auditorium to honor veterans from the Stanford community. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Jane Stanford established Memorial Court in 1900 to recognize Stanford veterans of the 1898 Spanish-American War. Memorial Auditorium was dedicated in 1937 to members of the Stanford community who died in World War I. Today, plaques in the lobby of Memorial Auditorium commemorate the 486 service members affiliated with Stanford who died in service to the country in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“On Veterans Day and throughout the year, these spaces help us pay tribute to those who have served,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote in the annual letter addressed to the Stanford community and campus visitors. “I offer my own deep thanks to all of our veterans for the peace and liberty we enjoy in this country.”

At Stanford, 102 veterans are studying as undergraduate or graduate students, or as visiting fellows at the Hoover Institution and at the Center for International Security and Cooperation. The military-affiliated community on campus also includes 46 students with a parent or spouse who is a veteran or an active duty service member, and 14 students attending Stanford on ROTC scholarships.

“On Veterans Day, we are called on to consider the meaning of their service and to reflect on the liberties we enjoy as a result of their sacrifices,” Tessier-Lavigne noted in his letter. “I’m inspired by the courage and selflessness of our nation’s veterans. I am especially proud of Stanford veterans, who enrich our campus community with their talent, dedication and spirit of leadership.”

Veterans on campus shared their thoughts on the meaning of Veterans Day and talked about what they will do to commemorate the day.

Honoring legacy and sacrifice

Andrew Beck, a second-year MBA student at the Graduate School of Business (GSB), said it’s important to acknowledge the history of the holiday, which was originally established as Armistice Day to honor World War I veterans and commemorate the ceasefire agreement with Germany that brought the war to an end at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918.

In the United States, the holiday was later expanded to honor all veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Beck noted that Veterans Day is distinct from Memorial Day, which honors and mourns military personnel who died while carrying out their duties.

“To me, Veterans Day is about bringing our community and the nation together to honor the legacy of service and sacrifice of veterans,” Beck said. “Although the day celebrates veterans, it’s also a tribute to the ideals our country was founded upon.”

Beck, who served in the Army as an infantry and special forces officer, will mark the day by participating in Vets Perspectives, a program sponsored by the Stanford GSB Veterans Club. During the event, veterans studying at the GSB will share their experiences in the military with small groups of business school students – an event designed to highlight the diversity of their experiences and perspectives.

Grappling with injustices in the military

Tina Wong, an undergraduate student majoring in economics in the School of Humanities and Sciences, said the holiday evokes her appreciation and pride for the work she and fellow veterans did to help other people.

Yet Wong, who served as a healthcare specialist in the U.S. Army, said she grapples daily with the reality and challenges of the systematic injustices she sees in the military.

“The demographics of recruitment, outcomes for veterans, and conditions for servicemembers and their families are all issues that need improvement. We need to encourage and normalize civil conversations among servicemembers, veterans and civilians about the state and role of the military so we can better identify specific shortcomings and collaborate to make meaningful changes.”

Wong plans to attend a Veterans Day reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13, in the Memorial Auditorium Courtyard. The semi-formal outdoor gathering, sponsored by the Stanford Office for Military-Affiliated Communities, will feature guest speakers, dinner and refreshments.

The event is open to Stanford students, fellows, alumni, faculty, staff and campus partners with military affiliations, including people who previously, currently or will be serving in the military of any nation. Those interested in attending should email Wong at for more information.

Celebrating a band of brothers

Brendan DaCosta, a junior majoring in energy resources engineering in the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, also plans to attend the reception.

DaCosta, a member of the Stanford Undergraduate Veterans Association, said Veterans Day offers the opportunity to reflect on his time in the military and the men and women he served with, along with those that came before him and those who remain on active duty.

DaCosta, who served as an airborne cryptologic language analyst in the U.S. Air Force, said he recently attended the wedding of a friend from the Air Force – an event that became a reunion of sorts for a group of men that had not seen each other for more than three years.

“We reminisced about old times, about how we’re doing now and the struggles we’ve faced since then for those who remained active duty and those who separated,” he said. “That was really my Veterans Day. The military is a very unique experience, something that cannot be accurately described – only experienced firsthand. Those men are my brothers.”

Remembering friends on active duty

Aaron Spikol, co-president of the Stanford Law Veterans Organization, will be helping out at the group’s Veterans Day BBQ at Lake Lagunita from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today.

On Veterans Day, Spikol, who served as an armor officer in the U.S. Army, said he remembers those who served before him and feels gratitude for those whose service was far more difficult than his own.

“I think about the Army and how old it is – older than this country, which it helped found – and how fortunate I am to have been a part of that institution, even if just for a short while,” said Spikol, who is pursuing a PhD in political science in the School of Humanities and Sciences and a JD at Stanford Law School as a Knight-Hennessy Scholar.

“I remember my friends who are still serving on active duty,” he continued. “Many of them could be studying here at Stanford or anywhere else if they wanted, but they chose instead to keep putting on the uniform every day and doing the hard work of being a soldier. For me, the meaning of Veterans Day lies somewhere in these thoughts.”