Honoring our veterans

Nicholas Polinsky, Herald Contributor

The word “silent” is not often used when it comes to describing the Global Heritage Hall (GHH) atrium. However, on the morning of Friday, Nov. 10, this was one of the most appropriate words to describe the scene unfolding: the annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony.

Students, faculty, staff, family, veterans, people currently serving in the military, and everyone in between filled a majority of the seats in the GHH atrium, which is where the ceremony was to be held after it was determined the weather outside was too cold and windy. A normally bustling area on campus was indeed crowded, yet very silent.

It is tradition at RWU to hold an annual ceremony to recognize the men and women who have served our country, are currently in the military, or plan to join the ranks.  This year’s theme was “Service and Honor.”

Despite the importance of such a ceremony, some seats remained empty.  A brief glance around the room would reveal that, on a campus of nearly 5,000 students, the size of the crowd was disappointingly small.

Freshman Mike Clinch who attends his hometown’s Veteran’s Day Ceremony every year made a comment on the assembly at RWU.

Mike said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony, but I don’t believe enough people came.”

Master of Ceremonies Kevin Hayden, a former Sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and the current director of RWU’s Study Abroad Programs (name?), welcomed the audience and introduced the university’s acapella group, Drastic Measures, who sang “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Reverend Nancy Soukup, the university Multi-Faith Chaplain and director of the Office of Spiritual Life, then led the invocation, in which she thanked veterans for their service in all of U.S. history’s wars and for giving up their youth to fight for our country.

President Donald J. Farish took to the podium to express his gratitude toward everyone who has served and is serving, and highlighted the importance that we give back to our veterans. Farish spoke of the new veteran’s home that is being built in Bristol and encouraged everyone in the audience to give thanks to those who serve through not just words, but through their actions.

Farish then introduced the keynote speaker, Lieutenant Colonel David Coombs, who served for over twelve years on Active Duty in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Coombs is also an internationally respected trial attorney and has presided over 130 cases in the courtroom. 

Coombs gave several success stories of those who have served in the U.S. military. Some of these people were born in the U.S., while others immigrated from another country. He was very passionate about this subject, declaring that every soldier should be treated with respect, no matter their background.

Coombs said, “something that should never be forgotten is that our veterans are both natural-born [citizens] and immigrants.”

After speaking about the importance of our veterans as both soldiers and citizens, he encouraged everyone “to strive to build bridges instead of walls” when it comes to bonding with people who may be different from us.

Hayden returned to the podium and spoke about the memorial wreath, which represents all of the soldiers and members of the community who have served or have been lost. He motioned to a large bouquet of carnations and instructed that the crowd may take a carnation to lay in front of the flagpole where the wreath was placed by two senior cadets in the RWU Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Matthew Baltz and Austin Doody. 

Drastic Measures returned once more and closed the ceremony with a rendition of “America the Beautiful.”   

Nearly everyone took a carnation to the flagpole and placed it in front of the wreath, often taking a moment of silence to privately acknowledge those who have served.