University honors veterans at ceremony

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Photo by Alexandra Schmeling.

Over 100 people gathered on Monday afternoon in Beinecke Plaza for the annual Veterans Day ceremony to celebrate the increasingly public role of service men and women in the Yale community.

The ceremony, which was attended by several university administrators as well as mayor-elect Toni Harp ARC ’78, had a strong focus on students, according to Woodbridge Fellow Marj Berman ’13, who helped organize the event. Though members of the Yale University Police Department served as the honor guard, and World War II veteran Rev. Harry Adams ’45 DIV ’51 delivered a closing benediction, current Yale students — veterans and members of the Reserve Officers Training Corps on campus — were the central figures of the event.

At the ceremony, Sarah Barbo FES ’14 SOM ’14, who served in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2013 and was nominated to give remarks by the Yale Student Veterans Council, encouraged listeners to commit themselves to something bigger than themselves and to embody veterans’ values in their lives at Yale.

“What if we all lived like this?” she asked. “As if our lives depended on the people next to us fulfilling their potential?”

More than 60 veterans are currently attending classes at Yale, according to University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, who said in her welcome address at the ceremony that she is “optimistic about making Yale more veteran-friendly.”

Silliman Dean Hugh Flick — a Vietnam War veteran and annual attendee of the ceremony — said he has seen an uptick in attendance at the Veterans Day ceremonies ever since the ROTC program returned to campus at the beginning of last year.

In his tribute, current Eli Whitney student Alex Hawke ’14 spoke about the “incredible public spirit” that is a hallmark of service members. Hawke especially pointed to women, African-Americans and homosexuals who fought for the nation abroad before fully earning their rights at home.

Berman said the ceremony tried to incorporate as many veterans and students as possible, balancing Yale traditions and service traditions alike. She added that this year is the first that the ceremony has been live streamed online, in an effort to open the event up to families and alumni who could not be present on campus.

Josh Clapper ’16, a student who is involved in the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps, said students in attendance at the ceremony from the ROTC program were put in a unique position, as they were connected to the U.S. Armed Forces without yet having fully experienced active service.

“The visual effect of Beinecke Plaza, with the World War I memorial, is very striking,” he said. “It’s one of those moments when you feel very connected to the history of the place.”

Esther Portyansky ’16 said she attended the event because she is currently enrolled in professor Jay Winters’ “Europe in the Age of Total War” class, which made her more appreciative of the lives of soldiers and veterans.

Rachel Miller ’15, another student in attendance, said she was drawn to the event because she has a personal connection to Veterans Day.

“Both my grandparents served in World War II, including one who came to Yale after the war, so I thought I’d honor my grandparents,” she said.

The ceremony, which lasted roughly 45 minutes, concluded with a wreath laying, a playing of taps and Adams’ benediction.

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