On a rainy morning late last week, community members filed into Elon University’s LaRose Digital Theatre in the Koury Business Center to recognize the sacrifices that United States veterans have made for their country. Though Veterans Day fell on Sunday, Nov. 11, this year, students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni came together on Nov. 9 to recognize those who have served.
The crowd remained respectful yet jovial. Veterans from the community sat in the first few rows of the theater, laughing with one another as they caught up. A slide show of veterans past and present played in the background.
The ceremony began with the posting of the colors by Elon’s ROTC Color Guard, followed by the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance from those in attendance. Peter Tremblay, associate chaplain for Catholic Life, led the event and held a moment of silence.
The guest speaker for the ceremony, Bill Burpitt Jr., professor of management, spoke about the importance of this ceremony.
According to Pew Research Center, there are 20.4 million veterans in the U.S. “They are taking their kids to school, they are mowing their lawns, they are waiting in lines,” Burpitt said.
Burpitt, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1967-1968, honored the average Americans who spent their youth serving their country. He said there is no difference between those who served in active combat and those who served during a time of peace; all of them were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for those they loved.
Burpitt’s speech came to a close, and it was time to call roll. Those in attendance were asked to stand if they felt inclined and state the name and service of a veteran they wanted to honor. It was a moment of reverence as those in the audience began to stand and remember those who have passed as well as those in active duty.
Following the roll call, the organizers played a video produced by Elon students. It was a compilation of interviews from around campus, asking what Veterans Day means to them. There was a common theme in each of the interviews: family. Each student, when asked, gave thanks to their family members and recognized the sacrifices made by every veteran. Stories of sacrifice, love and honor were shared. The ceremony was capped off by the singing of the national anthem by Elon’s own a cappella group, Rip_Chord.
One of the veterans in attendance was Thomas J. Harper, who served 24 years in the Navy, followed by a 20-year stint as an Elon faculty member. He said the ceremony brought back both good and bad thoughts.
Harper served as a captain of a destroyer during the Vietnam War — the first to shoot down an enemy aircraft during that war.
“I’ve been coming to this ceremony since they started having it,” Harper said. “It makes all of us very happy.”
Students in Project Management class helped make the ceremony happen this year. Madeline Hollenbeck, the leader of the team, said it felt fitting for the ceremony to be held on a rainy Friday morning.
“It is important to remember and honor those who serve as well as connect veterans to the Elon community,” Hollenbeck said.
Hollenbeck, along with the rest of her team, seemed to have a deep-seated admiration for veterans and those who have served this country. Their hard work culminated in the ceremony, dedicated to those who have died for the land of the free and the home of the brave.