By Todd Feathers, News Staff
On an unusually warm November day at the Veterans Memorial, Northeastern honored its service members, who have fought from the battlefields of Europe and shores of the Pacific to the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan.
Northeastern veterans, ROTC members, officials and honored guests gathered on Veterans Day to pay their respects to Northeastern alumni who died in the armed services. Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun and keynote speaker Janet Napolitano spoke about the sacrifices made by former Northeastern students and their respect for those currently training to enter the armed services.
“We will never forget the sacrifices made by your loved ones and the sacrifices made by men and women in uniform on a daily basis,” Napolitano, the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, said.
Napolitano and Aoun spent a significant portion of their speeches praising the ROTC program at Northeastern, which has produced the top ranked cadet in the country two years in a row. Senior civil engineering major Patrick Lupfer earned the top spot on this year’s US Army Cadet Command’s National Order of Merit List, and alumnus Daniel Oesterheld, a criminal justice major, won the honor last year.
Northeastern’s ROTC program is among the largest in the country, and many of its past and present members attended the ceremony.
Andrew Torres, a former ROTC member who graduated in May with a degree in criminal justice and is now working as an ROTC recruiter, said the university’s program was rated among the top 10 in the country this year.
“That’s pretty rare coming from a big school in the middle of a city,” Torres said. “We have to be pretty innovative in what we do in terms of training.”
But Torres and several current ROTC members said the day was not about them, regardless of their accomplishments.
“Our commanding officers and previous active duty veterans are the guys we should really tip our hats for,” Torres said.
The mood was somber and respectful as six wreaths were placed before the Veterans Memorial, in honor of students who served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, War in Iraq and War in Afghanistan.
Senior Michael Trudeau, president of the university’s Student Veterans Organization, urged the audience to look beyond veterans’ combat service and also admire the work they do at home.
“The veteran will always put others before himself,” Trudeau said. “If there is a job to be done, or someone in need, the veteran will always ask ‘How can I help?’”
But Monday’s speakers focused on the sacrifices made during times of war. And the dangers service members face were driven home as the university honored three of its alumni who were recently identified as having died while fighting abroad.
The families of former students Robert Curry, Alfred Tripp and Francis Curtin, accepted honorary dogtags from Napolitano and Aoun, as many of those in attendance bowed their heads in respect.
“Each of these individuals is more than a name. They are a person who has served and given the ultimate sacrifice,” Napolitano said.
“The veterans who have come to Northeastern, graduated from here, and some who have given the ultimate sacrifice, deserve our recognition.”
As the ceremony came to an end and a lone bugler played taps, the glare of the sun faded behind late afternoon clouds. Above the Veterans Memorial, the Northeastern and American flags were lowered to half mast.
After the ceremony Dick Power, president of the Northeastern ROTC Alumni Society, said he loved attending Veterans Day at Northeastern because it offered him a chance to meet future service members.
“You see the full gamut of service and potential service and all the honor given to them,” Power said. “It’s important for me, and to them, to see that somebody will care even when they’ve been out of the service for 50 years.”