At a Veterans Day Ceremony at Northeastern University on Monday, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano called on all Americans to recognize the veterans who have served their nation. In recent weeks, the secretary said, U.S. veterans—as well as national guardsmen and federal officials—have also made their presence felt on American soil in response to Hurricane Sandy.
Napolitano said she has been deeply moved by the effort. Veterans, she said, have rushed to hand out meals to families in need, members of the coast guard have make hundreds of rooftop rescues and Department of Defense officials have flown in utility crews to impacted areas.
“We saw veterans in action,” Napolitano said. “We see it in person every day.”
It is in that spirit of sacrifice, Napolitano said, that veterans from Northeastern University and across the country should be honored on Veterans Day.
President Joseph E. Aoun and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano lay a wreath in honor of veterans who lost their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom.
At the ceremony, members of the university community came together to honor those veterans at the Northeastern University Veterans Memorial, which is located adjacent to the Egan Research Center on Neal F. Finnegan Plaza. The memorial, which was dedicated six years ago, bears the names of those men and women from Northeastern who have given their lives serving America.
In his remarks, President Joseph E. Aoun praised the university’s student veterans, whom he called “real leaders in our community.” He also singled out one of Northeastern’s ROTC cadets, Patrick Lupfer, who was recently ranked No. 1 out of 5,579 senior cadets on the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s National Order of Merit List.
“We are very proud of our traditions,” Aoun said, noting Northeastern’s commitment to veterans. He also recognized the more than 4,000 alumni who enrolled in ROTC and have been commissioned into the U.S. Army and in other services.
Aoun noted that higher education has traditionally been wary of pursuing security research, but added that Northeastern has embraced this approach, making security one the university’s top research themes along with health and sustainability. This has led to the creation of the university’s DHS-funded Center for Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats (ALERT) and the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security. Northeastern has also been designated by the NSA as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations.
Earlier this year, Aoun was named to a new academic advisory council that reports directly to Napolitano and examines how universities can contribute to America’s national security efforts.
Michael Trudeau, ’13, president of the Student Veterans Organization, served as the event’s master of ceremonies. In opening remarks, he noted that veterans are always ready to heed the call of duty, a trait that makes them great job candidates at home and fixtures in their communities through service and many other ways.
Trudeau said that most of the nation’s newest veterans were in high school when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 killed nearly 3,000 people.
“Many put their individual lives on hold to protect the American people to secure our homeland. However, what sets this generation apart is that we are an all volunteer force,” Trudeau said. “While it’s still too early to speculate how history will perceive us, one thing is certain: If there’s a job that needs to be done, or if there is someone in need, a veteran will always ask, ‘How can I help?'”
Lt. Col. Blaise Gallahue, chair and professor of military science who joined Northeastern in August, noted the more than 21 million living veterans in the United States who served since World War I and the 1.4 million Americans currently serving on active duty. He called Veterans Day a great tribute to them for their extraordinary efforts to defend their fellow citizens’ liberties, the Constitution and their country.
“They stood tall in the face of grave danger and enabled our nation to become the greatest force for freedom in human history. Our country is forever indebted to our veterans for their exemplary service and quiet courage,” Gallahue said. “We remember and honor those who laid down their lives in freedom’s defense. These brave men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for our benefit. On Veterans Day, we remember those heroes for their valor, their loyalty and their dedication.”
Later in the ceremony, Aoun and Napolitano joined John R. Power Jr., BA’63, a longtime member of the Northeastern University ROTC Alumni Society who served 30 years in the U.S. Army, in recognizing three fallen veterans whose names were added to the university’s Veterans Memorial this year: Francis (Frank) W. Curtain, U.S. Army, Class of 1936; Robert Louis Curry, U.S. Marine Corps, Class of 1967; and Alfred Leonard Tripp, U.S. Marine Corps, Class of 1963. Their names were uncovered thanks to the research efforts of the ROTC Alumni Society.
To the families of those veterans present at the ceremony, Napolitano said, “We will never forget the sacrifices made by your loved ones, and that all of our men and women in uniform make on a daily basis.”
ROTC cadets also laid wreaths in front of the Veterans Memorial to honor those who died in each of the country’s military conflicts since World War I. Aoun and Napolitano laid the wreath in recognition of the latest conflict, Operation Enduring Freedom.
Earlier in the day, the Northeastern ROTC Alumni Society and the Student Veterans Organization held another remembrance ceremony in the Raytheon Amphitheater in the Egan Research Center, where the names listed on Northeastern’s Veterans Memorial were read aloud.
The university has hosted an ROTC program on campus since 1950 and at one time it was one of the largest completely volunteer ROTC units in the country with about 2,800 cadets. The current ROTC formation, Liberty Battalion, includes cadets from several schools in the Boston area.
As part of her visit to campus, Napolitano also met with Aoun, university leadership and faculty to discuss Northeastern’s security research profile and tour the ALERT Center, where researchers are developing state-of-the-art security technologies in areas such as explosives detection and airport security.