Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Staff Writer
This year marks the 100-year-anniversary of the armistice of World War I. Veterans Day was initially linked with the ending of World War I. Although the Treaty of Versailles was ratified in June of 1919, a ceasefire, or armistice, began Nov. 11, 1918 at 11:11 a.m.. The next November, President Woodrow Wilson announced the day to be Armistice Day, in order to recognize those who lost their lives in service of the United States. Wilson declared, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”
In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, Congress amended the naming of Armistice Day to be Veterans Day, in respect for all of those who had died for their country, not solely those who fought in World War I. Veterans Day will be celebrated this Sunday, Nov. 11.
In preparation for this Veterans Day, it is important to consider its history, specifically Berry’s connection to World War I. In the Berry archives, students can access the Southern Highlander publications, which were published by the Berry Schools during and in the immediate aftermath of World War I, and allow us to trace Berry’s deep-rooted involvement in the war.
According to the publication of the Southern Highlander from March 1919, approximately 500 Berry students were enlisted and fought in World War I. Of these 500 Berry Boys, as they were called, 11 lost their lives in the war. Here it is important to remember that at this point, and up until 1924, Berry was not yet a college, but simply a boarding school for impoverished boys and girls in the rural South. It was a high school, so students were only around age 18.
Martha Berry strongly believed that her educational and work training program offered at the Mount Berry School for Boys was vital to their success in the war. The vocational education provided at the school, as well as basic literacy education, allowed students to play important roles in the development of the war. As she explains in a letter titled “The Acid Test of War,” published in the May 1918 edition of Southern Highlander, “the School is built to help country boys and girls; it is fitted to their needs. After sixteen years of faithful and conscientious work, we know — it is proved — that ignorant boys and girls coming here are transformed into boys and girls of practical ideals who are fitted for service.”
Furthermore, Berry’s work program was actually mobilized in order to help feed those in the war. As the October 1918 edition of the Southern Highlander described, Berry students spent their summers throughout the war aiding in providing for those overseas. The Berry School continued its agricultural program, ramping up dairy and beef production to aid in the world food crisis. Girls began to be more fully integrated into job roles previously only held by boys on campus, such as gathering fruits and vegetables and canning foods, along with their more traditional roles of sewing and weaving. Aside from the work program, Berry boys and girls alike worked to support the Red Cross and were frequently out in the community raising funds for the war. Despite being impoverished high school students, at a Red Cross rally during the summer of 1918, Berry students collectively gave $83.10 towards funding nursing and war efforts in the trenches. This today is the equivalent of $1,495.34.
Staff and students interested in learning more about the history of Veterans Day, Armistice Day, or Berry’s involvement in World War I, there are plenty of opportunities being offered between now and Sunday. This Sunday, there will be an event concerning Berry and World War I in Krannert at 4 p.m., as well as a ceremony conducted at the World War I monument on Memorial Drive at 5:30 p.m. And, in general, for more information on the history of Berry, they can visit the Archives in the Memorial Library, or the Oak Hill Museum, open 10-5 Monday through Friday.