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Honoring ROTC

Staff Editorial | Thursday, November 13, 2008

A couple times per week, they train while the rest of us sleep. They aren’t training for their shot at glory in Notre Dame Stadium, they aren’t practicing their jump shot and they aren’t getting ready for the big game. These students are honing another kind of ability – their ability to be a soldier.Early wake-up calls and grueling workouts are no deterrent to the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students enrolled in the ROTC programs on campus. They spend weeks over their summer vacation, doing more training, preparing for their lives after college. When they’re on campus, they are just like every other Notre Dame student – they are our classmates, our dorm mates and our friends.But they are hardly ordinary.Some of us will leave this University and enter a career, others will continue their education in graduate school, but some of our fellow students will head to the deserts of Iraq or Afghanistan, be stationed on a submarine or a ship, or fly the skies in defense of the United States. They will protect the freedoms of our country – the freedom to chase our dream jobs, the freedom to raise a family in peace and even the freedom to say a football coach should be fired.As a country and at Notre Dame, we commemorated Veterans Day this past Tuesday. University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh spoke at the ROTC’s Tri-Military Veterans Day Ceremony and said he stands “in awe, respect and gratitude to our armed forces.”We share that sentiment.As students at Notre Dame, it’s easy to get caught up in the pressures and demands that come with attending this University and sometimes other issues – especially the poor performance of the football team – can cloud our judgment of what’s truly important. But as we watch the Irish suit up against Navy this weekend, we should take time to pause and reflect. We should reflect upon the sacrifice and courage of our fellow classmates, of the men on the opposing sideline and of the men and women stationed around the globe. These men and women are fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – wars that began when most of us weren’t old enough to drive a car.Back then, as many of us watched the world change before our very eyes, never could we imagine that soon, people our age, our friends and classmates, would be fighting in those wars for us.That bitter reality has come, but we should not be afraid for them. We should be comforted knowing they will leave this University and take its values, its morals and its teachings with them into this world, a world where peace can sometimes seem unattainable.They train to enter that world with us, in the classroom and in the community. But unlike us, they also train to go out into that world before the sun comes up, while the rest of us sleep. And we sleep safe, thankful that they are there to protect us.