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Service remembers Sept. 11 victims, soldiers

Ryan Sydlik | Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More than 40 civilians gathered with ROTC cadets, midshipmen and their officers in front of the Hesburgh Library reflecting pool Monday morning for a brief but poignant ceremony in remembrance of those who died five years ago in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The service began with an invocation by Basilica Rector Father Peter Rocca, who asked God to “protect in a special way, these young men and women, cadets and midshipmen, as they prepare to serve their country.”

Guest speaker of honor Gunnery Sgt. Ralph “Lefty” Guillette not only earned numerous medals and awards during his service in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, but also holds the distinction of being the oldest undergraduate student in the history of Notre Dame at the age of 75.

“Today is not a day of celebration,” he said. “Today is to honor and pay tribute to the fallen brothers and sisters that [died] on Sept. 11.”

Guillette told the youths in the audience to “never forget Sept. 11,” noting how his generation still remembers the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Guillette said the cadets and midshipmen might face uncertainties in their future, but should remember to always set a good example and “show pride in being a leader and an officer.”

“Remember, only combat is a true test of performance,” he said. “Be prepared for that moment.”

While serving in Korea, Guillette said he experienced his first true example of leadership.

After Guillette saw a wounded marine missing his right arm, his platoon commander told him to “cry [his] heart out,” but to also “go ahead and accomplish the mission.”

Guillette called the incident his “baptism of fire,” encouraging the “future leaders” that “honor, courage and commitment is your responsibility.”

He said the cadets and midshipmen should let the Sept. 11 attacks serve as a source of “motivation for your success as a leader and a member of the greatest armed forces of the world.”

“You are protecting this country because the lost ones of Sept. 11 were killed because of the liberties and freedoms we have,” he said.

The ceremony concluded with the playing of “Taps,” ending right as the skies opened in a downpour of rain.