By Emily Kelley
Dozens of students, families and faculty volunteered to re-color the Campus Mall in flags of red, white and blue on Nov. 7.
Students from various groups and organizations filled the space, flags in hand, eager to represent and remember the men and women who served, especially those who gave their lives. Overall, 12,000 American flags were staked into the ground to commemorate all veterans.The number of flags has increased every year; this year had the greatest number to date.
This patriotic display doubled as a backdrop for the Veteran’s Day ceremony held in front of Moore Library on Nov. 9 at 11 a.m. All students, veterans and outside guests were invited and encouraged to attend.
The ceremony began with a marching of flags across the stage set up in front of Moore Library. Once all eight flags were placed, a Westminster Choir College student sang the national anthem. Director of the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs Russell Melville took the stage, welcomed guests, thanked them for coming and began to share the importance of the event.
“Today our goal is simple: to pay our deepest respect to those members who serve and protect our country, both at home and abroad,” said Melville.
He then invited all attending veterans to stand. The crowd that overflowed onto the library staircase broke into rounds of applause.
“This ceremony and our American flag display, which you will see behind me, is our way of paying respects to all veterans,” said Melville. “It has been our greatest privilege at Rider University to do so with pride, purpose and enthusiasm.” He then invited Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen to share some of Rider’s history with veterans.
“In 1865, [Rider’s] mission was to educate a new generation of leaders for the booming, industrialized, post-Civil War economy,” she said. “Our inaugural class was made up of just 50 students — many of whom were civil war veterans. Today, 150 years later, Rider University, through the yellow ribbon program, continues its tradition of educating veterans who have returned from service around the world.”
Fredeen then introduced the first guest speaker, Brig. Gen. Alberto C. Rosende, commander of the Atlantic Division 75th Training Command.
“So what does Veterans Day mean to us today?” Rosende asked. “Well, for me, it means a couple of things. First, it means to do more to acknowledge and help veterans reintegrate and thrive in American civil society.” He continued to explain that simply thanking men and women for their service isn’t enough. Rosende encouraged everyone to “do more” by volunteering for more organizations that support and help veterans after war.
“Secondly, understand that a veteran’s experiences influence the manner in which he or she approaches their reintegration to everyday life outside of their service.”
Following Rosende, Fredeen reentered the stage to introduce Lt. Col. Joseph Shusko, a veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps for more than 30 years. Shusko also graduated from Rider in 1997 with a major in marketing. He was a member of the ROTC program as well as the wrestling team.
Shusko stepped up to the podium, immediately expressing his gratitude and thanking Rider for “getting it right.” He explained how much the ceremony meant to him and acknowledged all of the hard work that went into making it a success. Forty years ago as a student at Rider, Shusko drove down to Philadelphia to join the platoon leaders class of the United States Marine Corps.
“Back then it wasn’t a real popular time to serve our country,” he said. Some people told him he was crazy, while others called him brave and admired his decision to serve his country.
Concluding the ceremonial speeches, Melville invited three Rider student veterans to come forward for the wreath-laying ceremony. “Let it be known that this wreath is in honor of veterans of all around our great country,” he said.
Following the conclusion of the ceremony, students and faculty stayed to thank the veterans.
“Obviously these people give so much to our country,” said Larry Walker, junior global supply chain major and member of the Rider ice hockey team. “We feel obligated to come and support.”
“We have some veterans on the team,” added sophomore global supply chain major Michael Katz. “Our trainer was in the Army so we came to show support for him.”