Celebrating Veterans Day at SDOT

Photo Credit: Israel Palacio; Unsplash.

Thank you veterans!

Today – November 11 – is Veterans Day. While our office may be closed today, our gratitude to our brave armed forces veterans extends throughout the year. 

To help educate the public, and ourselves, about this important holiday we dug into the history of the day, spoke with an SDOT employee who served in the first Gulf War about what this day means to them, and looked at the importance of right of way accessibility to this community. 

Veterans Day is celebrated each year on November 11.  

The date has long been notable, since 1918 when – the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs explains – World War I fighting ceased following an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany.” This armistice reportedly went into effect on November 11, 1918, or “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  

An Act approved in 1938 made November 11 a legal holiday – “Armistice Day” – to honor World War I veterans. In 1954, following World War II and the Korean War, November 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars with the approval of new legislation. 

There are a significant number of veterans living in Seattle, and many who work at SDOT! 

About 4% of the total Seattle population are veterans, which equates to about 26,515 total veterans (per the 2019 American Community Survey). Of these veterans, over one-third served in the Vietnam War. 

One of those veterans at SDOT is David Engeseth, a Bridge Maintenance Mechanic in our Roadway Structures division. His first Veterans Day at SDOT was in November 2005. 

David served in the United States Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991, and served in all three campaigns of the Gulf War. He served for 4 years, 5 months, and 21 days, to be exact! His time in the military has made him feel equipped to handle any emergency that comes his way at work. Further, his approach to work is mission-oriented and straightforward – similar to how he approached his military service. He notices that some veterans, like himself, prefer to have their work speak for themselves, and don’t often seek public recognition for their military service. 

President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address resonates with David as he describes his military service: 

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” 

David ended our conversation explaining the term, “Semper fi” – short for “semper fidelis,” a Latin phrase that means “always faithful” and is motto of the United States Marine Corps. He finds great value in sharing and processing his experience alongside other veterans. He notes that military service is marked by camaraderie, cooperation, and diversity, which he occasionally misses. 

This is an important time to remind the community that honoring our veterans takes many forms.  

Thinking about transportation accessibility is one way we can work together to support veterans who have disabilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of August 2019, 4.7 million veterans nationwide (25% of all veterans) were living with a service-connected disability. 

Our work at SDOT is critically important in making sure that people of all ages and abilities are able to move safely throughout the city. Features such as curb ramps, ramps, sidewalks, detectable warnings and street crossings are components of an accessible network for people walking and rolling. (Tip: The Seattle Accessible Route Planner can help people plan routes using City of Seattle curb ramps and sidewalks!) We prioritize accessibility improvements using the Pedestrian Master Plan

In the fall and winter, it becomes even more important for each of us to do our part to keep people moving safely no matter how they are traveling. Keeping your sidewalks clear of leaves, snow, and ice, as well as unclogging your street drains is the right thing to do. It’s also an essential part of helping everyone travel, especially people who are have accessibility needs or have a harder time getting around. Blocked drainage structures can have a big impact for both people traveling along sidewalks using mobility devices and/or with vision disabilities. If the drain is blocked, the bottom of curb ramps can become flooded. This makes the curb ramp difficult or impossible for manual wheelchairs to use.  

Veterans Day is an important holiday to honor the work of veterans nationwide and right here at home, including the many who work at SDOT. 

To all veterans in our community and nationwide: thank you for your service.