By Ruth Steinhardt
The George Washington University community took time out Friday morning to celebrate Veterans Day with its traditional wreath-laying ceremony.
“We are grateful for all the contributions that student veterans make to our university,” said George Washington President Steven Knapp in his welcome. “One of those contributions is their ‘continuing the mission’ by leading and inspiring the service activities of their fellow students.”
Students, faculty and staff, including several veterans, gathered in Veterans Park on Kogan Plaza to celebrate, opening with the traditional presentation of the colors.
Keynote speakers Adam Popp and Luann Barndt, veterans themselves, explored the legacy of the American armed forces and celebrated the advantages veterans bring to GW.
Mr. Popp, who is getting his master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, is the recipient of a 2016 Pat Tillman Award. Mr. Popp pointed to Mr. Tillman, who gave up a lucrative football career to join the U.S. Army Rangers, as an exemplar of military values of self-sacrifice and dedication to country.
“Let us continue to remember and honor [veterans] each day by thriving in the freedom they protected,” he said.
Ms. Barndt, a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a doctoral student in GSEHD’s Executive Leadership Program in Human and Organizational Learning, commemorated the 40th anniversary of women’s admission into military academies.
She shared the story of Douglas Munro, the Coast Guard’s first and only recipient of the Medal of Honor, who died on Guadalcanal in 1942. Mr. Munro’s mother, Edith, accepted a commission in the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve on the same day she received her son’s medal.
“As a Gold Star mother, she transformed her loss into significant service,” said Ms. Barndt, who has two children in the military.
This year, all jobs in combat were opened to women for the first time.
“My son observed that he would be among those to integrate women into the infantry—and who better to understand the challenges that women in the military face than the son of a military mother?” Ms. Barndt said.
Ms. Barndt, Mr. Popp, GW Veterans President Yannick Baptiste and Student Association Executive Vice President Thomas Falcigno presented the traditional wreath of flowers at the end of the ceremony.
GW continued its commitment to military and veteran students by expanding its Yellow Ribbon Program benefits in June. The university has been named a “Best for Vets” university by Military Times since 2010 and has been listed among G.I. Jobs’ “Military-Friendly” institutions since 2009.