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Northeastern honors veterans at ceremony

At its annual Veterans Day ceremony, Northeastern University honored all those who have served the United States in military service, and paid tribute to Capt. Eric A. Jones, BA’04, who died in October 2009 while serving combat missions in Afghanistan.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 200, including U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, President Joseph E. Aoun praised Northeastern’s longstanding commitment to foster strong relationships with the military and veterans. Northeastern’s ROTC program began in 1951, and in the early 1960s was considered the largest in the United States. Click here to see video from this year’s ceremony.

“Higher education in the United States has an obligation to play a role in contributing to the security of our nation,” Aoun said, highlighting Northeastern’s emphasis on pioneering research in security.

As one of the University’s top research themes— along with health and sustainability—security has been the focus of several defense and homeland security-focused efforts, including the Awareness and Localization of Explosives-related Threats (ALERT) center and the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security currently being built on the Burlington campus.

Aoun spoke to the family of Capt. Jones, saying Northeastern would always remember him and honor his memory. Later, Aoun, joined by Brown, presented the Jones family with military identification tags.

“Eric is part of this family,” Aoun said. “What Eric did is something we cherish and will never take for granted.”

For the ceremony, Brown returned to the campus where he served as a member of Northeastern’s ROTC program while attending other local schools. He fondly recalled that experience as “an integral part of my growing up, being part of the ROTC program at Northeastern University.”

“The leadership skills that I received here have carried me on,” Brown said.

Eric Jones was a third-generation Husky, following in the footsteps of his father Kenneth, ’70, and grandfather Alton, ’53. Capt. Alexander Cole, a close personal friend of Jones, attended the ceremony along with two fellow soldiers. He recalled Jones’ devotion to serving the nation, positive attitude, and reassuring smile.

“Eric gave his life in the defense of others,” Cole said. “Veterans Day is certainly a fitting holiday to honor him.”

Four years ago, Northeastern dedicated its Veterans Memorial in the heart of campus. The memorial bears the names of those men and women from Northeastern who have given their lives for their country.

“Service to the nation is deeply embedded in Northeastern values,” Chairman Emeritus Neal F. Finnegan, BA’61, Hon.’98, said today.

ROTC cadets laid wreaths at the memorial representing military conflicts involving the United States. The 26th Infantry Division band also played the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.”

The current ROTC formation at Northeastern, known as Liberty Battalion, includes cadets from Boston College, Suffolk University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and other local colleges. It is the largest ROTC program in Massachusetts.

This year, three Army ROTC cadets from Northeastern—seniors Jonathan Hickey, Robert Leedham, and Caitlyn McGowan—have been named Distinguished Military Graduates, pending successful completion of their senior year, based on their scholarship, high moral character, military aptitude and leadership ability. They will be commissioned second lieutenants upon graduation and begin active duty.

Last year, Northeastern invested $2 million to help post-9/11 veterans earn degrees through the Veteran’s Department Yellow Ribbon Program.

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