By Theresa Evans
To mark the 100 years since the armistice was signed ending World War I, a week-long celebration honored veterans at Rider leading up to Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
When Rider was founded in 1865, its first class had a majority of Civil War veterans, according to Thomas Reddington, coordinator of veteran affairs.
“Rider has a long history of supporting veterans and the military,” he said. “Memorial Hall was built with post World War II GI Bill funds. It is good to see Rider continuing this tradition with the programs and support it offers veterans.”
According to Reddington, Rider knows of 48 student veterans as well as 20 veterans among the faculty and staff.
“I say that this is how many we know about because most veterans are humble and do not come forward,” he said.
Veteran students appreciate the efforts the Rider community makes to honor veterans and feel they receive support on campus.
“When I get the honor to put on my uniform, so many people come up to me and show their support,” said Taylor Stalnaker, a cadet with the Princeton’s Army ROTC program. “It means the world to me to be recognized.”
The week-long agenda started off on Nov. 1 when historian Erik Burro hung a series of black and white photographs of over two dozen World War I monuments in New Jersey in Daly Dining Hall.
During Rider’s Family Weekend, families were invited to begin outlining the Rider “R” with small American flags on the campus mall. The Rider community was encouraged to add flags until Nov. 7.
According to Reddington, about 12,000 flags were planted on campus.
“We had 169 people sign in to plant flags,” said Reddington. “Families all gathered together, told stories and laughed and cried while placing flags. It was a great experience for all involved.”
Rider athletics and club sports honored veterans as well.
“The Men’s Basketball Team hosted Military Appreciation Night, as the Rider Color Guard presented Colors for the National Anthem,” said Reddington. “And the Rider Hockey Club held a Rider Ice military Night during their game versus Navy.”
To celebrate the “centennial of the WWI armistice,” the community placed “a large outline of the number 100” on the campus mall and filled it with photographs of the Rider community, according to Reddington.
Nov. 8 was packed with events to honor veterans. The Armed Forces Heritage Museum parked outside of Moore Library for the entirety of the day, exhibiting the military history of New Jersey.
Richard Moyer ’74, a United States air force veteran and alumni board of directors member, spoke at the Veterans Day Ceremony, which was followed by a tribute to fallen veterans where Gold Star families laid a wreath.
A Veterans Luncheon was held after the ceremony where the Veterans Voices program encouraged attendees to share stories and experiences about the veterans in their lives.
Burro later discussed the stories behind his photo series during A Legacy of Remembrance: Photographs by Erik L. Burro.
“Military life and experience is so unique,” said Reddington. “It can be a brutal and life-changing event. Often times, veterans have a tough time integrating back into civilian life. They are surrounded by people who have no idea what the veteran went through. It is comforting to know when our government, our businesses, our schools and our community really care enough to honor the sacrifices of the veterans by doing real things to support veterans.”
Reddington, along with other members of the veteran affairs department and fellow veterans, influenced Eric Weinstein, a senior filmmaking, TV and radio major, to attend Rider.
“When I first joined the military, I was very proud of what I had accomplished,” said Weinstein. “But, after a while of actually being in the military, it kind of faded a little and I became ashamed of some of the things I had done. It’s because of people like Russel Melville [a veteran and 2011 graduate] and Reddington that I’m proud again of what I have accomplished.”
One way Reddington enforces that pride is through celebrating Veterans Day.
“Veterans Day is a special day to honor the men and women who have served our country,” said Reddington. “It is important to recognize that real people—the people beside you in class, working in that administration office or teaching the class made sacrifices to protect our country. It is also important to take the time to realize that these veterans have families and friends who were impacted by their service and sacrifice also. It is important to say thank you.”