As Veterans Day approaches, Northern Illinois University alumna and Illinois State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit is reflecting on fellow veterans who sacrificed their lives for freedom and on her service in the Marine Corps.
After graduating high school, Kifowit joined the Marines on an impulse and didn’t tell her family until after she had signed up. Being in the military began her path of public service and led to her becoming an Illinois representative, she said.
“I just wanted to see the world and do something exciting. So I guess I didn’t have a lot of expectations. It was a very rewarding and fulfilling time, and I would do it again if I had the opportunity,” said Kifowit, who has served the 84th District for two years. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my military experience.”
The former corporal said she acquired leadership skills and was pushed to her physical and mental limits in the Marines. The experience also helped her develop camaraderie with other Marines and made her realize the importance of fighting for freedom.
“I think a lot of people have lost sight of what it really means to be free and what it means to live in a great country,” said Kifowit, an Oswego resident.
In her efforts to help veterans, she sponsored a resolution last spring to create a task force to evaluate the number of suicides of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. At her district office in Aurora, she is also working to get more veterans involved in the American Legion and Marine Corps League.
To pay tribute to all veterans, NIU invites the public to its annual Veterans Day ceremony at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, at the flagpole southeast of Altgeld Hall (near the East Lagoon). Thomas Phillips, NIU’s police chief, will present the keynote address.
Following the ceremony, veterans and community members are invited for lunch in Altgeld Hall to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the NIU Veterans Association. Veterans Day was created in 1954, the same year that the NIU Veterans Association was created.
As part of the anniversary celebration, a 30-minute parade will begin at 4 p.m. on Stadium Drive, next to the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.
The parade will proceed south on Stadium Drive East in front of Huskie Stadium and will loop around the stadium. Participants include NIU’s mascot Mission, ROTC cadets, the Huskie Battalion Color Guard, the NIU Veterans Association, NIU cheerleaders, the DeKalb Fire Department and the DeKalb Police Department.
NIU veterans are welcome to march in the parade (and by signing up online) and should gather at Stadium Drive at 3:30 p.m.
After the parade, veterans and other participants are invited to tailgate at The Yard and stay for the 7 p.m. football game to see the Huskies take on the Toledo Rockets. Military service members, policemen, firefighters and emergency medical technicians with proper identification can purchase game tickets at a discounted price of $14 each.
“Veterans Day is, of course, about honoring our veterans. But to me, it is also about passing on our values – particularly the value of service to others – from one generation to the next,” said Leon Kincaid, president of the NIU Veterans Association and an Air Force veteran.
Kincaid, an advocate for veterans of NIU and the DeKalb community, is responsible for initiating plans for this year’s Veterans Day events at Northern.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th U.S. president, signed the bill to create Veterans Day to honor the service of all veterans. It previously was referred to as Armistice Day, which honors the veterans of World War I.
Veterans Day ceremonies traditionally begin on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. That time of day signifies when major hostilities of World War I formerly ended in 1918, when the armistice with Germany went into effect.