At Northeastern’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony, keynote speaker Col. Richard F. Johnson commended the university for its support of veterans and said Northeastern is in a great position to help active duty military personnel transition back to civilian life.
As more of the newest generation of veterans return home, Johnson, commander of the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, said it’s important to let veterans put the skills they learned from the military to work. He highlighted Northeastern’s experiential learning model as a way to propel young veterans into the work force and public service where they can make an immediate impact.
“Our returning veterans deserve the opportunity to re-integrate back into civilian life with as little difficulty as possible,” Johnson said. “They need the opportunity to apply the skills, knowledge and leadership experience they gained during their time in the military.”
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At Monday’s ceremony, members of the Northeastern community gathered at the university’s Veterans Memorial, which is located next to the Egan Research Center. The memorial, which was dedicated seven years ago, bears the names of the 289 men and women from Northeastern who gave their lives serving in the military.
Two names were recently added to the wall: World War I veteran Benjamin William Fuller, Class of 1914, and Vietnam veteran William Thomas Cloney, Class of 1969. Members of both men’s families were at the ceremony and received replicas of the plaques that will go on the wall.
“Memorialization matters,” Neal F. Finnegan, chairman emeritus of Northeastern’s Board of Trustees, said in his remarks during the ceremony. “We are obliged as a grateful nation to remember.”
Earlier in the day, the Northeastern ROTC Alumni Society also held a remembrance ceremony in the Raytheon Amphitheater in Egan, where the names listed on the Veterans Memorial were read aloud.
“Northeastern’s commitment to educating its citizens and its veterans matters to America,” Donald Gourley, president of the ROTC Alumni Society, said during the remembrance ceremony. “Let us use today to recognize those who fought for us, those we fought along side and what was fought for.”
Northeastern’s commitment to veterans and military personnel extends back to 1950, when the ROTC program on campus began. At one time it was one of the largest completely volunteer ROTC units in the country with about 2,800 cadets. The current ROTC formation, Liberty Battalion, includes cadets from several other schools in the Boston area. About 4,000 alumni who enrolled in ROTC have been commissioned into the U.S. Army and in other services.
Northeastern has also embraced security research and made it a top research priority, in addition to health and sustainability. Northeastern is home to the Department of Homeland Security-funded Center for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) and the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security. Northeastern was also designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations by the National Security Agency.
The Student Veterans Organization, founded in 2010, is a support network and voice for the more than 100 student veterans on campus. Last year, the organization raised more than $30,000 for PSTD and TBI research. Johnson congratulated the SVO for being named the 2013 Chapter of the Year by the Student Veterans of America.
“On Veterans Day it is important to remember that the men and women who fought in America’s wars are not victims,” said Adam Beatty, a Northeastern business student and president of the SVO, who spoke Monday. “They are regular Americans who stepped up to take position between their country and its enemies. Let’s make sure we give veterans all the support they need.”
During Monday’s ceremony, ROTC cadets laid wreaths in front of the Veterans Memorial to honor those who died in each of the country’s military conflicts since World War I. Johnson and Lt. Col. Blaise Gallahue, chair and professor of Military Science at Northeastern, laid the final wreath in recognition of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Today, we honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom,” Gallahue said during his remarks. “They all took an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States. Let us never forget the sacrifices of these fallen heroes and of their families.”