A trio of local veterans on Monday urged members of the Harford County Board of Education to close schools on Veterans Day in the future so that students, families and school system staff can spend the day performing community service or learning more about veterans.
“I am not advocating that it is just going to be another day off, but rather an education focal point,” Robert Brown, a 23-year veteran of the Army and chair of the Harford County Commission on Veterans Affairs, said.
Brown’s wife, Lisa Brown, and Pamela Silcox, fellow members of the veterans’ commission, also spoke on the matter during the public comment portion of Monday’s school board meeting at the school system headquarters in Bel Air.
In October, during a discussion with their colleagues as the board reviewed a proposed calendar for the 2019-2020 school year, school board President Joseph Voskuhl and board member Thomas Fitzpatrick suggested closing schools on Veterans Day.
The board has not yet voted on the calendar; it is on the Harford County Public Schools website for a 60-day public comment period, which closes Friday. The community is welcome and encouraged to continue to provide feedback.
After the October meeting, information was given to board members about events that take place and curriculum in the schools on Veteran’s Day, along with comments and feedback from the community received so far on this and other discussion points, according to Manager of Communications Jillian Lader. The calendar will be on an upcoming board meeting agenda for further discussion and approval.
Fitzpatrick, who was absent Monday, noted in October than many veterans live in Harford and that Aberdeen Proving Ground Army post is the largest local employer — APG has more than 20,000 soldiers, civilian Department of Defense workers and contractors.
In her comments Monday, Lisa Brown, a 12-year veteran of the Army and a media specialist at Edgewood Elementary School, said there are approximately 19,000 veterans who live in the county. She said that population includes relatives of students and staff, former students and current school system staff members.
“Beyond their commitment and selfless service to our country, active-duty [military] and veterans serve our school community as volunteers, mentors and presenters at curriculum-connected activities,” she said.
She said Veterans Day should be a designated service day, a “call to action” to take part in activities such as writing notes to veterans, performing a community cleanup, working in a soup kitchen or helping a neighbor.
“Let us lead by example and make Veterans Day not only a recognition of those who served our country, but an opportunity for all of us to make our community and our world a better place by our service to others,” she said.
Robert Brown said that if schools were closed, students and their families would be able to attend or participate in community events to commemorate Veterans Day.
Doing so, he said, would be “a chance to learn about duty, honor, country and selfless service from those that have lived it. It’s a chance to broaden our knowledge of history.”
Silcox, a parent of an eighth-grader at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air and a fifth-grader at Fountain Green Elementary School, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1989 and spent six years in the Army. She is now a civilian worker at APG.
“Every year I celebrate [Veterans Day] without my children because they are both at school,” she said.
Silcox said she has visited her children’s schools on Veterans Day in recent years, as the Nov. 11 holiday has coincided with American Education Week.
“They learn about veterans sometimes and why we honor the holiday, but it doesn’t seem genuine since students and teachers are still required to be in school and aren’t off for the federal holiday,” she said.
Silcox asked board members to consider closing schools each year on Veterans Day “to honor our veterans, many of whom are teachers, our military and their families.”
Robert Brown noted a memorial that’s at the front of the school system headquarters — the A.A Roberty Building — honoring former Harford County students who died while serving in the military.
“I would not want to be the one that said Veterans Day is just not that important as a school holiday,” he said.