By 1st Lt. Titus FirminDecember 5, 2019
TOPEKA, Kan. - Kansas Army National Guard service members and their families marched in the Topeka Veterans Day Parade this Nov. 9, 2019. While the holiday falls on a Monday this year, communities in Kansas and around the U.S. have celebrated Veterans Day with parades since 1954. Veterans Day is a time for the community to celebrate the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families. In return, Veterans Day also inspires Kansans to find ways to give back to their community.
Spc. Brittany White and her unit, the 137th Transportation Company Detachment, located in Topeka, participated in the parade. For Spc. White this was her first time marching in the Veterans Day parade, but not her first time attending.
"When I was eight or nine my mom started bringing us [to the Veterans Day Parade] every year," said White. "As a kid it was fun to catch candy but also to show support for those who protect us and keep us safe. After that I always knew I wanted to serve my community."
The Topeka Renegades, a little league tackle football team, also marched in the parade. The Topeka Renegades are sponsored by Capitol Post 1 American Legion Riders and led by their assistant coach, Sgt. 1st Class Derick Bunch, assigned to the Joint Forces Headquarters in Topeka.
"Football teaches children life skills like discipline, how to work together, be a team player, and give back to the community," said Bunch. "Football is more than just a game."
Reina Esquivel, whose son Andres is on the Renegades, agreed with Bunch.
"My grandfather served in the Navy, but not many people in my family have served since then," said Esquivel. "I like that football teaches my son to be a young man and I hope it inspires him to give back to his community as he gets older.
Veterans Day is rooted in Kansas history. After World War I, Americans celebrated Nov. 11 as Armistice Day to honor veterans. In 1953 citizens from Emporia started a movement to officially change the recognition of Nov. 11 to Veterans Day. Emporia's congressman, Representative Ed Rees of Kansas, introduced House Resolution 7786 and Nov. 11 officially became Veterans Day when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law. Emporia held the first Veterans Day parade Nov. 11, 1954. For nearly 60 years Veterans Day has been an American tradition thanks to Kansas.
After 1954, the meaning of Nov. 11 changed from honoring only veterans of World War I to recognizing all U.S. veterans.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Mohatt, commander of the Kansas Army National Guard, said that Veterans Day is a time to "celebrate service members and veterans for all of their hard work and service to their communities," but also to celebrate their families.
While the National Guard generally serves local Kansas communities, since 9/11, the National Guard has been increasingly called to serve the nation as well.
"None of this would be possible without the love and support of our terrific families," said Mohatt.
Members of the National Guard and their families have a unique relationship with Kansas because they are truly part of the local communities they serve. Since 1855, citizen-soldiers in the National Guard continue to serve Kansas communities during peacetime, emergency and war.
In the words of a legendary Kansan, Bob Dole, "It's often said that [the WWII] generation is the greatest generation...truth be told...every generation of young men and women who dare to face the realities of war - fighting for freedom, defending our country, with a willingness to lay their lives on the line - is the greatest generation."
Veterans Day is a uniquely Kansas tradition. The meaning of Nov. 11 has changed over time, but at the heart of it is an opportunity for people to come together and thank those who support and defend their community and country. So this Veterans Day, thank a veteran and their family, but also think of ways to serve and give back to your community.