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ROTC units host vigil to honor veterans

| Thursday, November 12, 2015

God. Country. Notre Dame.

On Nov. 11, this traditional Notre Dame motto took on an even deeper significance as Veteran’s Day was observed on North Quad by Notre Dame’s Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC units.

In observance of Veteran’s Day, the Notre Dame ROTC units stood vigil for 24 hours at the Clarke Memorial Fountain, known popularly as “Stonehenge,” to honor the men and women who have served. Chris Collins | The Observer
In observance of Veteran’s Day, the Notre Dame ROTC units stood vigil for 24 hours at the Clarke Memorial Fountain, known popularly as “Stonehenge,” to honor the men and women who have served.

The celebration of Veteran’s Day began at 5 p.m. on Nov. 10, when a 24-hour vigil at the Clarke Memorial Fountain, known by students as “Stonehenge,” began. According to a University press release, cadets and midshipmen from all three ROTC units stood guard at the four corners of the fountain during the vigil. This 24-hour vigil is a traditional event that Notre Dame ROTC units hold each year, according to the release.

The vigil concluded with a ceremony on the quad on Nov. 11, exactly 24-hours after the guarding of the memorial began. Cadets and midshipmen filled the quad, standing in rank to show respect for all the living and deceased men and women who served before them.

The ceremony began with the introduction of the official party, which included Fr. Pete McCormick, director of Campus Ministry; James Wagenbach, former U.S. solider and Vietnam veteran; Lt. Col. Christopher Pratt, commanding officer of Notre Dame Army ROTC and professor of military science; Cmrd. Frederick Landau, executive officer of Notre Dame Naval ROTC and professor of naval science; and Col. Frank Rossi, commanding officer of Notre Dame Air Force ROTC and professor of aerospace studies.

The introduction was followed by a playing of the national anthem, a prayer led by McCormick and a brief history of Veteran’s Day.

“By guarding the memorial, we are showing reverence and respect for the veterans and the fallen heroes,” Cadet Maj. Robert Szabo said. “We are remembering what those men did in those wars.”

All cadets and midshipman who guarded the memorial were honored during the ceremony.

“The 24-hour vigil they just completed is not only a tribute to veterans, but a testament to [the cadets’ and midshipmen’s] commitment, strength and character,” Col. Pratt said in a speech during the ceremony. “Although most have yet to serve, they represent the best and the brightest of our country. They chose a path of service to this great nation that less than one half of 1 percent choose these days.”

Pratt then introduced Wagenbach, the keynote speaker. In his introduction, Pratt noted that Wagenbach was both a Notre Dame alum and veteran. According to Pratt, Wagenbach served as a recon platoon leader and armored cavalry troop commander in Vietnam. He was medically discharged for wounds received in combat and decorated with a Silver Star Medal, the third highest military decoration for valor, awarded for gallantry and action against the enemy.

Wagenbach spoke about a Notre Dame very different than the one students know today. In his speech, Wagenbach said during his time at Notre Dame in the 1960s, there were 6,000 total undergraduate students, 4,000 of which participated in ROTC.

“James Wagenbach is both an American treasure and hero, and we are honored to have him with us,” Pratt said.

The ceremony concluded as veterans in attendance were asked to stand and be recognized. Finally, taps was played to honor those veterans who passed.

“To honor the men and women who have served is of the utmost importance,” Szabo said. “Holding a 24-hour vigil for Veteran’s Day, culminating in the ceremony on the quad, is a great way to show the importance of Veteran’s Day on campus.”

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