Veterans Day

November 11, 2011 by staff 

Veterans Day, What do these three things have in common? How about a first-of-its-kind Veterans Day intercollegiate basketball game aboard a Navy aircraft carrier with President Barack Obama in attendance!

Dubbed the Carrier Classic 11-11-11, today’s game will feature Michigan State vs. North Carolina before 7,000 fans aboard the carrier Carl Vinson anchored off Coronado in San Diego Bay. The 113,500-ton Carl Vinson and its company of approximately 3,200 sailors returned home to San Diego this past summer after a tour of duty in the Middle East. Ironically, the Carl Vinson is the same warship by which Osama bin Laden was transported and buried at sea after his death on May 2.

Thanks to an agreement between the Morale Entertainment Foundation and ESPN, which will televise the game, needed attention will be brought to the terms “dedication,” “service” and “sacrifice.” Why? For starters, tickets for the event will not be for sale but only available for a primarily military audience as a small token for their service and sacrifice.

The president’s attendance at the game after laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery earlier in the day raises the profile of such a game even higher. It’s no secret the president is a basketball fan. He recently needed 12 stitches in his lip after being elbowed during a pickup game. Additionally, his brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, is the head basketball coach of the Oregon State Beavers. Lastly, every year he publicly fills out his NCAA March Madness bracket during an ESPN special.

The president is not just a basketball fan. He is also a huge fan of our veterans and their families as expressed in his annual Veterans Day Proclamation. In the document released by the White House on Nov. 3, the president “call[s] on all Americans, including civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, and communities to support this day with commemorative expressions and programs.” The president and first lady Michelle Obama have also been instrumental in recently proclaiming Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day as a tribute to the sacrifices military spouses and family members make. Can there be a more commemorative expression than a collegiate basketball game – a game invented in this country – onboard a prominent symbol of American power with arguably the most powerful person in the world in attendance?

Earlier this week, Tom Izzo, coach of the Michigan State team, stated the significance of the event, noting that the game is “about the greatest team in the world … the military.” North Carolina coach Roy Williams made a similar statement: “It is an honor for Carolina basketball to play in such a unique game that will benefit and salute the United States’ armed forces.”

The history of Veterans Day makes this year in particular even more special. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice between the allied nations and Germany went into effect. On Nov. 11, 1919, Armistice Day, as it was then known, was commemorated for the first time. That same year, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.” Parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11 a.m. were planned all across the nation.

In 1954, veterans service organizations urged Congress to change the word “Armistice” to “Veterans.” Congress approved this change and on June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor all American veterans, wherever and whenever they had served.

Today, for 7,000 fans and the president of the United States, that wherever will be aboard the Carl Vinson. Where will I be this Veterans Day? As an active-duty airman, basketball fan and Michigan State alum, I’ll give you one guess. I’ll be courtside.

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