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ROTC honors Veteran’s Day

Nora Kenney | Friday, November 12, 2010

As the sun set on an unusually warm November evening at Notre Dame, members of the Notre Dame ROTC unit joined several distinguished guests Thursday at the Clarke Memorial Fountain, popularly known as Stonehenge, in honor of Veteran’s Day.

The event was the culmination of a 24-hour period, beginning Wednesday at 5 p.m., during which members of the ROTC were placed for non-stop vigilance at the fountain in honor of those who have served the country, especially POWs and MIAs.

The ceremony began at 5:15 p.m. Thursday evening with a moment of silence, the singing of the National Anthem and an invocation by Fr. Sean McGraw, an assistant professor of political science at Notre Dame. 

“The Veteran’s Day ceremony went very well today,” Midshipman Matthew Zak, the trimilitary commander for ROTC, said. “It is always amazing to see all three units together in one place.” 

The ceremony’s guest speaker was Lt. Col. Charles E. Rice, professor emeritus at Notre Dame’s Law School.

Addressing the four branches of the ROTC, who stood throughout the ceremony, Rice talked about the special relationship between ROTC and the University.

“The ROTC have earned the respect of the people here at Notre Dame.  We are proud of what you have done and we know you will carry into your service what you have learned here at Notre Dame.”

University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh was also present for the ceremony.  He addressed the crowd and spoke about the tradition of defending the nation as one that is deeply rooted in Notre Dame’s history. 

“There is no group here at Notre Dame that I am more proud to honor than the group standing before me,” he said.  “This is a tradition that Fr. Sorin would uphold, as he started the Continental Cadets here at Notre Dame.”

Congressman Joe Donnelly, a Notre Dame alumnus, also spoke at the event.  He thanked the students for their service, as well as Fr. Hesburgh. 

“It should be noted that the strength of the ROTC at Notre Dame would not be so without Fr. Hesburgh.  On behalf of the United States, Fr. Hesburgh, we thank you.”

Donnelly spoke of men and women in the armed forces from Northwestern Indiana who had lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of their courage and patriotism. 

“I have met some of our ROTC members in the toughest neighborhoods of Baghdad and they have said to me, ‘Sir, I have used the skills here that I learned at Notre Dame.'”

Following Donnelly’s address, all members of the armed forces stood to be recognized, and the lone sound in the quiet dusk air was the melody of “Taps,” being played by junior Midshipmen Steve Prendergast.

The ceremony concluded with a final prayer from Fr. McGraw, who said he was proud to be part of the event. 

“As a teacher of many ROTC students, I was just proud to be with them” McGraw said.  “It just hits home how commitment and dedication these students put forward.”

Zak said the ceremony is much more than a celebration of the armed forces and that it is a tribute to the relationship between the local community and the men and women fighting for the country.

“This ceremony is always very meaningful to anyone who wears a uniform to honor the men and women that have come before us, and those serving today. Also having Fr. Hesburgh come and speak there always is a connection to the Notre Dame students who came before us and served in the military,” he said. “This event gives all of us a great appreciation of the support from the University and the South Bend community for the men and women in the armed forces.”