The university celebrated Veterans Day with a ceremony featuring speeches from veteran students, faculty and administrators on the integration of veterans into the wider community on White-Gravenor Lawn on Wednesday.
The ceremony also posthumously honored alumnus Charles Rand (MED 1873), who received a Medal of Honor following the Civil War.
The Georgetown University Student Veterans Association and the Office of University President John J. DeGioia organized the event, which included a reception in Riggs Library after the ceremony.
Students in the McDonough Military Association, a group of student veterans in the McDonough School of Business, also led a wreath-laying in Arlington Cemetery on the day.
In his keynote address, GUSVA President James Perkins (GSB ’16) praised how Georgetown paves the way for students to pursue their own paths of service.
“As one of the most elite universities in America, Georgetown is in a unique place where we transform many youth into the future leaders and policymakers,” Perkins said. “Standing here, you will also see how many of us transition into the exercisers of policy.”
Perkins also said the university could do more to better integrate veteran students into the community, calling for more dialogue between the two.
“We simply cannot thank our veterans until we appreciate what they’ve done,” Perkins said. “In order to do so, we need to bridge a gap. I ask all of you to just listen, and embrace the opportunity … to engage and have meaningful interaction with someone from the military.”
At the event GUSVA Undergraduate Liaison Nick Broussard (COL ’17) also agreed that the university community would benefit from improved discourse between student veterans and the rest of the student body.
“I actually view Veterans Day as a catalyst for nonmilitary and military-connected individuals to interact in a way they may not under other circumstances,” Broussard said. “Getting thoughts and ideas in the open, establishing relationships and conversation — all these things can only create a better environment for learning and broaden understanding of our experiences.”
At Georgetown, the Hoya Battalion serves as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps battalion that has commissioned more than 4,100 officers over the past two centuries. The battalion also includes cadets from five local institutions, including Georgetown, American University and The George Washington University.
Alumnus Lieutenant General David Barno (SFS ’87) also delivered an address on how veterans are distinguished from civilians.
“Call it a spirit or ethic that veterans take from their time in uniform out into their lives, a deep-down belief that animates them to want to continue to serve and keep giving back to the nation,” Barno said.
Following Perkins’ speech, Barno delivered an address on the importance of overcoming elitism among active and former service members.
“I reject that notion that veterans are intrinsically somehow better than our fellow citizens,” Barno said. “Such an elitism, which suggests that somehow [service members] are such a special breed above others … is something I don’t think is right.”
Barno also stressed that returning service members should focus on contributing to the country in a positive way.
“The spirit of selflessness and commitment that our veterans bring with them, from flight deck and operating bases to their churches and homes … is truly what unites all our veterans,” Barno said. “Their spirit is what makes them especially valuable resources for America.”
Chief of Staff to the Office of the President Joe Ferrara received a flag from Lieutenant Colonel Michael Donahue of the Hoya Battalion onstage that symbolized the link between the university community and military service members.
Veterans Office Director LeNaya Hezel, who was involved in planning the ceremony, expressed her respect for the day’s celebration of veterans’ accomplishments.
“Veterans Day, in my view, is about honoring and celebrating those who have made many sacrifices for the sake of our nation,” Hezel said. “Whether it was the ultimate sacrifice, or the sacrifice of being away from their homes and family, it’s important to acknowledge their service and the way they made our country better.”
Navy ROTC member Audrey Fordham (NHS ’18), who attended the ceremony, said it is important to consider the impact veterans can have on wider community discourse.
“I think it’s important for people to see how veterans come back and contribute to the university,” Fordham said. “The more we celebrate their experiences, the more we can learn from their perspectives, and the better a community we can be
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