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Hesburgh, ROTC honor fallen veterans

Josh Leeuw | Monday, November 12, 2007

University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh extolled the virtues of Notre Dame’s commitment to its Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program Friday at a ceremony honoring Veterans Day.

“I can’t think of a better place or better group of people who are committed to service to be honoring today,” Hesburgh said.

The ceremony followed a 24-hour vigil at the Clarke Memorial Fountain, informally known as Stonehenge.

Beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday, members of the Notre Dame ROTC kept a 24-hour guard at the Clarke Memorial. A rotating group of four cadets, representing the branches of the ROTC program took their positions on each side of the memorial; by Friday afternoon, 152 cadets had participated.

Following the 24-hour vigil, members of the ROTC and Notre Dame community gathered at the Clarke Memorial to honor the nation’s fallen veterans.

“Today we honor all who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” said Cadet Lt. Col. Margaret Lindley, who served as the emcee for the ceremony.

All the members of Notre Dame’s ROTC were in attendance at the annual Veterans Day ceremony wearing their formal uniforms of green (Army), blue (Navy) and black (Air Force).

Hesburgh addressed the crowd gathered outside on an overcast, windy afternoon.

His address focused on tradition: He said Notre Dame’s tradition of educating soldiers went to back to Notre Dame’s founder, Father Edward Sorin.

“Father Sorin and Notre Dame were not only dedicated in educating young men, but also those who would live lives of valor,” he said.

Reflecting on the days of his early priesthood when he was the chaplain for the soldiers serving in World War II, Hesburgh said “one of the highlights of Notre Dame was during World War II when over 12,000 naval denizens were here. They were fighting for freedom and the welfare of humanity.”

Hesburgh also emphasized the importance of Clarke Memorial Fountain as a symbol to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice of military service.

“This is a hallowed spot on Notre Dame’s campus,” Hesburgh said. “… This monument represents those who gave the highest thing one can give – one’s own life – For this country and for peace.”

Over the years, many higher education institutions have debated expelling ROTC programs under political pressures, Hesbrugh said, “yet the ROTC program at Notre Dame endures.”

In a time when the military is under heavy scrutiny and criticism, Hesburgh said, “Notre Dame has stood strong supporting soldiers in a cause for peace, freedom and patriotism.”

When addressing the cadets, who were standing at full attention, Hesburgh told them that they “are the frontline of America – ,arching forward, protecting the country and even giving life if needed. For that we thank you.”

In his closing remarks, Hesburgh reminded the audience that “as long as we stand strong for country, this country will move forward with pride and security.”

Following his address, Hesburgh was given a gift from Lt. Col. Lindley on behalf of the ROTC program, for the his continued support of the program.

“Taps” was then played in remembrance of all the soldiers who had given their lives during service.

The Veterans Day Ceremony has been an annual tradition for Notre Dame since Veterans Day – then called Armistice Day – was proclaimed in 1926.