Northeastern honors student veterans at moving Veterans Day ceremony

U.S. Army veteran Brian Fountaine, AMD’17, knows the physical and mental toll of losing a limb. During his second deployment to Iraq in 2006, an improvised explosive device hit the truck he was in, causing him to lose both his legs.

“It really was a life-changing event, but I didn’t come home in a box and that is really all that mattered,” Fountaine said. “Everything else was kind of trivial.”

Fountaine shared his story as the keynote speaker at Northeastern University’s annual Veterans Day ceremony on Wednesday in the Raytheon Amphitheater. While poor weather forced the event indoors, it did not deter more than 200 people from attending, most of whom wore red poppy pins in honor of service members who have died in combat.

[caption id="attachment_55482" align="aligncenter" width="590"]2015 Veteran's Day Brian Fountaine, AMD'17, was the keynote speaker at Northeastern University's Veterans Day ceremony on Friday. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University[/caption]

While recovering in the hospital, Fountaine missed doing the little things in life, he said, like going for walks with his wife and holding her hand. But as a veteran, he noted, he had the support of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs when it came to getting fitted for his prosthetic legs. Unfortunately, as he learned while visiting with victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, many civilians who have lost limbs can have a harder time getting the assistance they need.

With this in mind, Fountaine, a graphic design student, is going to harness his education and the support he has received from Northeastern, from professors and the veterans services office, to help civilians who can’t easily get prosthetics. He recently won a $25,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, enabling him to purchase 3-D printers that print carbon fiber.

“My dream is to start building prosthetics for people who otherwise can’t afford them,” Fountaine said. “With Northeastern’s help…hopefully I can make that a reality for a lot of people.”

To aid the noble efforts of Fountaine and his fellow student veterans, Philomena Mantella, senior vice president and CEO of the Northeastern University Global Network, announced during the ceremony that Northeastern is launching the Center for Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers, a first-of-its-kind facility focused on career preparation.

Service to the nation is deeply embedded as a Northeastern value.”
—Neal Finnegan, BA’61, H’98, chair emeritus of the Northeastern University Board of Trustees

The new center includes a host of career development and scholarship opportunities, aiming to eliminate the gap between education and employment felt by returning veterans nationally. Student veterans will have access to specialized co-op placements, tailored experiential learning programs, and career resources that leverage their unique individual competencies and military experience.

Cadets with Liberty Battalion, Northeastern’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps unit, presented the colors to start Wednesday’s ceremony as Liberty Battalion member Jennifer Messina sang the National Anthem. Messina also sang “America the Beautiful” to close the ceremony, after which two cadets laid a wreath at Northeastern’s Veterans Memorial.

Northeastern has hosted an ROTC unit since 1950 and currently boasts 140 cadets from Northeastern and other Boston-area colleges. About 4,000 alumni who enrolled in ROTC have been commissioned in the U.S. Army and other services.

“Service to the nation is deeply embedded as a Northeastern value,” said Neal Finnegan, BA’61, H’98, chair emeritus of the Northeastern University Board of Trustees and an instrumental player in the development of the university’s Veterans Memorial.

[caption id="attachment_55483" align="aligncenter" width="590"]2015 Veterans Day Ceremony Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University[/caption]

During his remarks, President Joseph E. Aoun noted how Northeastern embraces the opportunity to work closely with the armed services to elevate military capabilities and support veterans as well as active duty personnel.

“What is special about our university is that it’s extremely comfortable with its partnership with the armed services,” Aoun said. “You see that in the way we open our doors to veterans and ask ‘What can we do together?’”

My dream is to start building prosthetics for people who otherwise can’t afford them.”
—Brian Fountaine, AMD'17

Max Spahn, S’17, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and president of Northeastern’s Student Veterans Organization, served as master of ceremonies. The SVO, created in 2009, assists veterans who are transitioning into college life and works with them to ensure that their military skills translate into civilian success. The organization provides career services, advocacy, support, and other programming for Northeastern’s veteran community.

“Student veterans are a different breed,” Spahn said in his welcoming remarks. “We were all called to serve in the armed forces for one reason or another, and most of us continue to serve once we separate from active duty. Our group is made up of future businessmen, engineers, scientists, and community leaders.”

The reverence of Northeastern’s Veterans Day ceremony was captured by the lenses of university photographers. Click here to view the photos.