Veteran’s Day is marked on Grounds by a 24-hour vigil that specifically recognizes and honors those who served in the military but are still missing in action, as well as those that were at one time held as prisoners of war. The University community takes specific notice of those who are and were inhibited from returning home to the United States. The 24-hour vigil concludes with a ceremony for all veterans.
The decade-old University ceremony traditionally included a 21-gun salute. However, this year the University has announced that this portion of the vigil will not be carried out. University President Jim Ryan released a public statement on both Facebook and Twitter regarding this decision, citing two main reasons for the change — to minimize noise disruption to students in class and to prevent concern about gun violence on Grounds.
“Given that the 21-gun salute is not a required, or even typical, part of Veteran’s Day ceremonies — as opposed to Memorial Day ceremonies, which are specifically dedicated to those who have lost their lives in service to our country — they chose to keep the ceremony at a central location on Grounds but leave out the 21-gun salute,” Ryan said.
The on-Grounds vigil Nov. 11 includes 92 cadets that will rotate in groups of four every hour and march throughout the 24-hour ceremony in the McIntire Amphitheatre.
The ceremony began at 4 p.m. today and will conclude tomorrow afternoon.
Ryan said the University is considering alternative solutions to honor veterans in conjunction with the commanding officer of the University’s Air Force ROTC detachment, Col. Michael Hough. This year, the amphitheatre was lit to cast the shadows of the cadets and raise awareness of the vigil tonight.
Ultimately, considering the desire for the ceremony to occur in a central location on Grounds and noting that Veteran’s Day ceremonies traditionally do not include a gun salute, the final decision excluded this portion of the ceremony.
However, Ryan recognized the grievances of those who have since expressed disappointment in response to this change.
“Community responses have helped us to understand that many see the 21-gun salute as an important element of the Veterans Day ceremony at the University of Virginia,” Ryan said.
The University has received backlash from ROTC alum in the Charlottesville area who considered the 21-gun salute an essential component of the vigil. Ryan confirmed in his social media post that this year’s decision still stands, but he vows to reevaluate the situation next year.
“Following this year’s ceremony, however, we will work with our ROTC officers and cadets to take a closer look at options for our Veterans Day events, including those that would enable us to re-introduce the 21-gun salute to the program,” Ryan said.
Internationally, many other nations mark this date, calling it Armistice Day as a celebration of the end of World War I. Armistice Day was renamed Veteran’s Day in the United States in 1954, in an effort to recognize all of the members of the armed forces both past and present.