His father served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam era. Both of his grandfathers served. One of his grandmothers served in the WAVES – Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service – for the U.S. Navy during World War II. His younger brother also joined the Navy.
For the junior nursing major from Montgomery, Ill., enlisting in the Navy in 2004 “just felt right.”
“When I think of Veterans Day, my thoughts go to my grandparents and father and how their sacrifices allow me to live the life I live. Altruistic service to others in any capacity is a noble endeavor,” said Johnsen, 27, now president of the NIU Veterans Club.
“Veterans Day is a time for remembrance and recognition for the men and women who have served and are still serving,” he added. “Whether or not one agrees with the politics involved is unrelated to the respect they should have for those who make the sacrifices and put themselves in harm’s way so others do not have to.”
Commemorated on campus Monday, Nov. 12 this year, the annual ceremony gives the NIU community and all of the United States the opportunity to give thanks.
Scheduled for 11 a.m. – observances typically take place at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the NIU Veterans Club-sponsored flagpole ceremony pays tribute to men and women who have served, or are serving, in the military and to honor their sacrifices.
The flagpole is just southeast of Altgeld Hall, near the East Lagoon. All are welcome.
Shanta Johnson will sing the national anthem. Richard Yndestad and Gene Zandenbosch will play “Taps.” Members of DeKalb’s American Legion Post 66 will provide a 21-gun salute.
“More than just being a tradition, Veterans Day should be celebrated to reinforce the sense of gratitude and respect for veterans,” Johnsen said. “It should teach each new generation that their freedom was paid for by another.”
Local veterans also can take advantage of free oil change around DeKalb County, including the Auto Clinic, 901 E. Lincoln Hwy., which also will provide free food to veterans.
More details about free oil changes and other free meals and discounts offered to local veterans are available on the Military Student Services Facebook page.