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ROTC vigil celebrates Veterans Day

| Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Army, Navy and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets kept vigil for 24 hours at the Clarke Memorial Fountain, starting Monday and ending Tuesday afternoon. Cadets had 30-minute shifts, and at the conclusion of the 24 hours, a celebration was held in honor of Veterans Day.

Freshman Parker McDowell’s shift began at 4:30 a.m. Despite the chilly morning, with wind blowing water from the fountain onto the cadets, McDowell said he enjoyed the demonstration.

“It was actually pretty enjoyable,” McDowell said. “It was a good chance to reflect on why we were there in the first place, honoring those who have lost their lives in wars.”

ANNIE SMIERCIAK | The Observer

Notre Dame Reserve Officers’ Training Corps kept vigil for 24 hours prior to their ceremony honoring Veterans Day, starting Monday and ending Tuesday afternoon.

The Clarke Memorial Fountain, known around campus as Stonehenge, was dedicated in 1986 to Notre Dame alumni who gave their lives in service to this country. The fountain specifically honors the 500 alumni who died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. “Pro Patria et Pace,” meaning “For Country and Peace,” is inscribed in the base of the fountain.

Around campus, the fountain is better known for the tradition of students running through the water after winning a home football game. Drawing attention to the true meaning behind the fountain is part of why cadets stand vigil for 24 hours.

“We walk by Stonehenge every day just going to class, but no one really thinks about it because it just passes over our eyes, but having people stationed there and standing watch on each side of the fountain for 24 hours straight, through the middle of the night, it really forces people to think about why [the fountain] is there,” McDowell said.

At the conclusion of the 24 hours on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m., all ROTC faculty, staff, cadets and midshipmen gathered at the fountain for a tri-military celebration of Veterans Day. The celebration began with the introduction of the official party and a benediction by Fr. Peter Rocca.

Lieutenant colonel Christopher Pratt, commanding officer of the Notre Dame Army ROTC and professor of military science, took the podium to introduce the guest speaker for the celebration: Honorable Judge Michael G. Gotsch. Gotsch is currently the magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

Prior to becoming a judge, Gotsch was commissioned at Notre Dame as a part of Army ROTC in 1979. He was a military intelligence officer, and he rose to the rank of captain. While on active duty, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal. After leaving active duty, he returned to Notre Dame and graduated with a law degree in 1987.

Gotsch began his speech by praising the Notre Dame ROTC and remembering his time as a cadet.

“I remember morning runs around the lake, and afternoon drills in the Stepan Center,” Gotsch said.

Gotsch then reminded the audience of the conditions that veterans have faced in wars, listing the intense physical challenges from weather and other factors.

“Many of these veterans didn’t ask to leave their homes to fight on distant battlefields. They didn’t go because they loved combat or glory,” Gotsch said. “Rather, they went because their country asked them to … They were ordinary people who responded to extraordinary challenge with exceptional courage.”

He then welcomed the cadets into a long line of Notre Dame alumni who have courageously served this country.

“The original Fighting Irish — an unbroken tradition of service [that] each of you is now a part of,” said Gotsch.

Gotsch left the cadets with a final piece of advice.

“The motto of the U.S. Army veritas, ‘veritas vigilantia victoria’ which means truth, vigilance and victory,” Gotsch said. “If you keep those concepts in mind and apply the values you’ve learned here — God, Country and Notre Dame— you will be excellent military officers, and you will continue to be a credit to yourselves, your families and your alma mater.”

The celebration was concluded by the playing of Taps and a benediction by Rocca, who left the audience with a reminder of the importance of true and lasting peace.

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