For Stephanie Koenig, Veterans Day is sacred. She helped organize a weekend vigil. She visited war memorials on the KU campus. But the KU junior, a cadet 1st lieutenant in the Air Force ROTC program, said most Americans view the holiday a bit differently.
"You could probably ask a lot of people in America, and they wouldn't even know what day Veterans Day is," Koenig said. "If you're not a veteran, you don't even think of it."
For cadets, Veterans Day isn't just a day off work or a chance to sleep in. In preparation for the holiday, they participated in a 24-hour vigil this weekend as homage to those who served.
ROTC members stood two abreast at the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and the World War II Memorial Campanile from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Saturday. They accompanied a single battery-powered lamp, meant as a reminder for those who fell in combat.
"The lamp is symbolic," Koenig said. "The point is it runs for the entire 24 hours. It's to honor those who gave their lives."
For many members of the military program, the annual ceremony was not only a chance to honor the elders, but also a sobering reminder that they might see combat.
For John Fridlington, a KU sophomore and cadet in Army ROTC, the vigil served as a reminder for his possible post-college duties.
"I haven't been deployed, but as soon as I get out of here, we have commitments that we have to serve," he said. "We become veterans. Veterans day will be our holiday. It means a lot to be here and standing post."
Fridlington stood post at the Campanile for an hour Friday night with Andrew DeGarmo, KU sophomore and Navy ROTC midshipman. They were accompanied by a howling wind, the vigil a reminder of those who preceded him in the military.
DeGarmo said the vigil was not only to recognize both veterans of previous wars, but also those currently serving in Iraq.
"I'm just a student, so I don't know what it's like to be in war," he said. "But it's just a way to pay tribute."
When Koenig organized the event, she said there was a bunch of enthusiasm from the cadets. ROTC provided supplies and warm clothing for the night. Cadets provided the watchful eye on the memorials.
"It makes us stop and think that we're going to be doing this someday too," she said.