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Roll Call honors fallen heroes

Anna Boarini | Sunday, November 13, 2011

Notre Dame joined more than 170 colleges and universities nationwide on Friday to simultaneously take part in the National Roll Call, honoring servicemen and women who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.

Capt. Clarence Earl Carter, professor of naval sciences, said he was honored to take part in the memorial.

“The flag that we have and the country we have exist because of the service of those who were in uniform before us dating back to the American Revolution,” Carter said. “God willing, we will continue to have young men and women make the commitment to stand watch on our great country. I’m grateful to have my own chance to stand the watch.”

Notre Dame’s Veteran’s Day memorial started at 4 p.m. Thursday when Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets and midshipmen began standing watch over the Clarke Memorial Fountain, better known as “Stonehenge,” for 24 hours, honoring those who served before them.

Members of the Notre Dame and South Bend communities gathered around the fountain at 8:30 a.m. Friday to honor those who lost their lives in the armed forces.

The names of about 6,300 American servicemen and women killed were read by 62 members of the Notre Dame community, 31 of whom were members of the University’s Navy, Army and Air Force ROTC units. The list would take nearly eight hours to read.

At 2 p.m. Friday, a nationwide minute of silence was observed.

University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh spoke at a memorial service Friday evening and said he considers the ROTC cadets and midshipmen at Notre Dame the “best of the best.”

“No group here at Notre Dame fills me with greater pride than the group that stands here before me,” Hesburgh said. “There is no way on earth that I can thank you for your dedication to God and Country.”

One of his proudest accomplishments as president of the University, Hesburgh said, was overseeing the building of the War Memorial.

Hesburgh said he is proud of what these cadets and midshipmen are doing for the United States.

“All I can say is you come from a great tradition,” he said. “I am so proud of all of you and what you are doing with your lives that I have a hard time keeping the tears back.”

John Hargrove, a Notre Dame alumnus and Vietnam War veteran, was visiting the area and came to campus to remember his friends.

“I lost a few friends and classmates in Vietnam and I wanted to come today to pay my respects,” he said.

Former Indiana Governor and 1968 Notre Dame graduate Joe Kernan said he was honored to speak on campus on Veteran’s Day. Kernan is a veteran of the Vietnam War and spent 11 months as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam.

“This is a day of remembering and reflecting,” he said. “I think all of us in this time reflect upon members of our family.”

Kernan said his father, grandfather and uncles all served in the armed forces and that is he does not reflect on his own service on Veteran’s Day, but rather the service of family members.

“I don’t think about it as it pertains to me, I think about how it pertains to my friends and family who served,” he said. “I think about my friends and colleagues who didn’t come home. It’s like Memorial Day, time to think about them.”

Kernan told the story of three different servicemen: John Herringer Jr., Robin Yackley and Mike McCormick, who were all killed in service and missing in action.

Their remains were eventually recovered by the United States Armed Forces, Kernan said. Herringer was killed during World War II and both Yackley and McCormick lost their lives in Vietnam, he said.

“The reason that they came home is because our government cares,” Kernan said. “Our military cares, and not only cares, but is willing to make the commitment to do whatever is necessary to make sure our men and women come back home. To not leave anyone on the field, to not let them be forgotten.”