At a plaque outside of Robinson Secondary School Friday, Nov. 11, a handful of people gathered to remember the soldier who gave the school its name.
U.S. Army Sgt. James W. Robinson died in 1966 while serving in the Vietnam War. For his bravery in war, he became the first Virginian to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. In his honor, and in honor of Veterans Day, members of the American Legion Post 177 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8469 participated in a ceremony in front of Robinson's plaque.
"[Robinson] is a great American school because of the sacrifice of veterans and their families," said principal Dan Meier. "We are very proud to be named after a veteran."
Many Robinson students and faculty are part of military families, he said. Meier's own father served in the Army during World War II, he said.
"It’s a big day for us," said Meier. "Every year, we try to do it a little bigger and better here." Earlier that morning, he said, students and faculty celebrated with a Veterans Day ceremony, and that evening, marked the occasion with a remembrance at the football game against Westfield High School.
Often, said Post 177 commander Larry Lamborn, people forget the reason behind Veterans Day, to honor and remember the men and women in the armed forces.
"To many people, it’s just another day. A day to watch TV, relax, or perhaps play golf," he said. "Veterans Day is set aside for us as a day of reflection, a day for thought, to reflect upon the glowing human spirit."
VETERANS DAY began as Armistice Day in 1918, the official end of World War I. President Woodrow Wilson signed it as a national day of recognition in 1919.
Veterans Day honors two particular qualities, said Lamborn: courage and self-sacrifice. He described how James Robinson, who died after entering enemy fire to save his troops, embodied these qualities.
"[James Robinson] willingly sacrificed himself so that his beleaguered comrades, set upon on all sides by enemy fire, could live," said Lamborn.
Lamborn told another story about an English ship gunned down during World War II, and four chaplains who stood on the deck singing hymns, handing out gloves and scarves and giving their seats on lifeboats to the soldiers.
"They have all sacrificed something," said Bill Anderson of American Legion Post 177, who served in the Army Reserves and National Guard for 20 years. "Some wounded, some killed. Even the 100,000 [soldiers] who did nothing, they sacrificed by being there."
Every war poses different challenges to its soldiers, said Anderson, and the current war in Iraq, fought guerrilla style, is no different.
"They say that for every man on the front lines, there are many more in the rear," said Anderson. "But there is no rear in a guerrilla war."
"It is not our intention to praise war," said Lamborn. "It is to praise those of our fellow citizens who didn’t turn their back on the service in time of war."
"Veterans really don’t like war," said VFW member Joe Buechel, who fought in Vietnam. "But somebody has to do it."
In the end, said Lamborn, citizens will not forget soldiers' bravery.
"Through courage and sacrifice, America will survive and prosper," he said.