The Northeastern community gathered on Tuesday afternoon for the university’s annual Veterans Day ceremony to honor all who have served in the U.S. military, especially Northeastern students and alumni.
Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jack Hammond, executive director of the Home Base Program and the ceremony’s keynote speaker, said Veterans Day is an important time to reflect on how we can help today’s veterans re-acclimate to civilian life following their service.
“Too many young Americans that leave the service after their combat time in Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t stepped forward yet (to ask for help),” Hammond said to the more than 200 people in attendance. “That’s why I have this job now, to help with the transition and connect these young men and women to care.”
Home Base Program provides clinical care and support services to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their families to heal the “invisible wounds of war,” including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.
The annual Veterans Day ceremony is held at the Northeastern University Veterans Memorial located on the Neal Finnegan Plaza adjacent to the Egan Research Center. The memorial was dedicated eight years ago and bears the names of the 289 men and women from Northeastern who gave their lives serving in the military.
Hammond commended Northeastern for its continued commitment to military service members and veterans, including through the Student Veterans Organization. The SVO, which was founded in 2010, provides career services, advocacy, support, and other programs for the more than 100 student veterans on campus. In 2013, the Student Veterans of America recognized SVO as its Chapter of the Year.
SVO President Brian Belice, S’16, who served in the U.S. Army for six years including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, also spoke at Tuesday’s ceremony about the importance of advocating for veterans returning to civilian life.
“The battles we fight may be different than those in the past,” Belice said. “But the challenges that many former service members face after getting out of the military are all too familiar. Adjusting to a civilian lifestyle means finding a new mission to fight for and learning a new set of skills.”
Donald Gourley, E’00, president of the Northeastern ROTC Alumni Society, said on Tuesday that what differentiates Northeastern’s Veterans Day ceremony among others are the same traits that differentiate Northeastern from other universities, and can be found in Northeastern’s motto: light, truth, and courage.
“Today and throughout its history, Northeastern serves as a robust and vital connector of the military and civilian parts of our society,” Gourley said.
Northeastern’s commitment to veterans and military personnel extends back to 1950, when the ROTC program started on campus. It was at one time 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.
Tuesday’s ceremony closed with members of the ROTC Alumni Society and SVO laying wreaths in front of the Veterans Memorial to honor those who died in each of the country’s military conflicts since World War I.
“Here at Northeastern, the wreath laying tradition has taken hold and every year we remember our heroes who served this nation in times of conflict in this important way,” said Neal F. Finnegan, DMSB’61, H’98, chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees.