Wreath-laying ceremony commemorates the service of veterans and members of the U.S. military.
By B.L. Wilson
A weekend of events at the George Washington University recognizing the service of veterans got underway Friday with a wreath-laying ceremony that included faculty, staff, students and service members in the Great Hall of the Marvin Center.
Members of the GW Capital Battalion Navy ROTC presented the colors. GW President Thomas LeBlanc spoke of the sacrifices that military service members make.
For Dr. LeBlanc, whose father was in the Air Force Reserve and whose brothers served in the U.S. Marine Corps, Veterans Day has a personal significance.
“I can tell you in my career in academia, I was conscious of the fact that I had two brothers who were serving that sometimes missed the birth of a child,” he said. “Sometimes they were sent to a war zone. We would call our mom every day, asking, ‘Have you heard anything?’”
At a family reunion over the past summer, he said, children, teenagers, young parents and older relatives played a game in which they had to name a branch of service in which a family member had served. All branches were accounted for.
As GW marks the university’s 10th annual wreath-laying ceremony, Dr. LeBlanc said, “It is fitting that we recognize our namesake was himself a service member.”
He noted that The Military Times ranks GW 19th among all four-year universities as best for veterans and fifth among private colleges and universities in serving veterans.
“It is a good ranking, but we can do better,” he said. “We’re committed to continuing this tradition of ensuring that military and veteran students have access and success here at GW.”
Mac Manning, program manager for the GW Office of Military and Veteran Services, introduced the keynote speaker, Ret. Maj. Carlos Kizzee, the interim executive director of the National Defense Information Sharing and Analysis Center, who also served as a career Marine Corps officer and military attorney.
As a self-described history buff, Mr. Kizzee talked about the origins of Veterans Day that began as Armistice Day when World War I ended at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
“In 1945, we ended another war,” Mr. Kizzee said, “We not only needed to look backward to remember the past of armistice but to recognize the people that were involved and impacted.”
“I want to encourage you to acknowledge veterans whether you agree with the purpose or reason why we may have gone into combat or why we may have gone into service, that we have to as a nation have a military,” he said.
His message was reinforced by the remarks of GW Veterans student orgranization Vice President Colin Pate, a senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and an ROTC cadet, who said he has made it his mission to grow the military community at GW.
“It is really important for ROTC students and students at universities in general to meet with veterans and speak with veterans,” said Mr. Pate, who will be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force next year.
“Nowadays, almost less than 1 percent of the population serves in the military. So it is a very valuable perspective that we need to keep us grounded when we’re making tough political decisions,” he said.