Army, Navy and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) units gathered at the Clarke Memorial Fountain on Tuesday to participate in a Veterans Day celebration in honor of all of those who have served in the United States military.
From 4:30 p.m. Monday until the ceremony Tuesday, midshipmen and cadets stood vigil at the Clarke Memorial Fountain, known by students as “Stonehenge,” to pay respects to service members.
The ceremony began with an introduction of the official party, followed by a benediction by Fr. Peter Rocca and the playing of the national anthem.
Lieutenant colonel Christopher Pratt, commanding officer of the Notre Dame Army ROTC and professor of military science, recognized the cadets and midshipmen.
“Although most have yet to serve, [the cadets and midshipmen] represent the absolute best and brightest of this country and have chosen a path of service to this great nation that less than one-half of 1 percent of Americans make these days,” Pratt said.
Pratt also acknowledged the cadets and midshipmen in regards to their identity as students of Notre Dame.
“In addition to their academically rigorous schedules, [the cadets and midshipmen] get up early and stay up late for their military training,” he said. “The 24-hour vigil they just completed is not only a tribute to Veterans Day, but a testament to their commitment, strength and character.”
Pratt then introduced the keynote speaker, Major Patrick Gibbons, who is retired Marine Corp and executive director of academic communications.
Gibbons began by speaking about the purpose and the importance of celebrating Veterans Day.
“Unlike Memorial Day which honors those who gave their life for the country, Veterans Day is designed for all of those who have served or are currently serving around the world, about 20 million Americans,” Gibbons said.
Although only a small percentage of Americans comprise the military, Gibbons said, many of them become heroes after serving.
Americans do not become heroes just by serving, but many of them achieve a heroic status later in life by changing lives as educators, business people, parents and coaches, Gibbons said.
“And I think what causes it is that common bond [the veterans] got in the military, while they were in uniform,” he said. “There was a willingness to serve others; there was a dedication to become better people and better citizens. It was the ability to get along with people from many different backgrounds and the desire to be forces of good in the world.”
Gibbons then spoke about the current military conflicts facing the United States.
“Today, the nation is involved in its longest war; this is its 14th consecutive year,” he said. “These days it remains unclear what victory would actually look like in this new type of warfare we are fighting, and the war of terrorism we are facing all around.”
The nation owes a great debt of gratitude to those who serve or who have served, Gibbons said, as many come home seriously wounded by both visible and invisible damage and also often need jobs and job training in order to assimilate back into their civilian lives.
In the divided nation we live in, the military unites us in paying respect and honoring people who have served or who are serving now in the military, Gibbons said.
Gibbons closed with a prayer, asking God to watch over the cadets and all serving in the military and their families. He was then presented with a plaque from the staff, cadets and midshipmen of the University tri-military as a thank-you for sharing his experiences and speaking in honor of Veterans Day.
Fr. Rocca ended the ceremony with a closing prayer that called for peace in their time.