Yesterday, hundreds of Yale students, faculty, staff, ROTC members and veterans joined in a ceremony at Beinecke Plaza to commemorate those who have fallen and celebrate those who have served.
The event, which began at 12 p.m. on Veterans Day, featured generations of Yale veterans and included formal military ceremonies. Gathered before the World War I Cenotaph, the afternoon crowd swelled to over 150 students, faculty and alumni. While speakers emphasized the importance of remembrance, they also emphasized Yale’s commitment to military service.
“Yale students, faculty and staff have answered the call in times to conflict, and often are the first ones to do so,” University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews said during her remarks.
University President Peter Salovey’s speech echoed this sentiment, saying Yale has a proud tradition of serving those who have served.
“We are grateful for those who now serve, all who have served and for those who, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, ‘gave the last full measure of devotion in service of their country,’” Jack Beecher ’84, a Vietnam veteran and Yale’s senior director of business operations, professional schools and professional support, said in his opening invocation. “We honor our military and ask that whatever is required of them be informed by their infinite wisdom — the light and the truth — as they honorably and loyally seek to create a peaceful and secure future for us all.”
Salovey added that there are — and have been — many University programs to support military personnel, from Yale’s participation in the World War II V-12 Navy college training program to the current-day Warrior-Scholar Project and ROTC.
Reinstated in 2012, the ROTC program became a focal point of the ceremony for the ways in which it has united the missions of students and military service-people alike.
“We as a community are fortunate not only to have our treasured veterans, but we also have established within the fabric of our university the cadets and midshipmen of our ROTC programs,” Goff-Crews said.
For Captain Nerea Cal GRD ’16, Yale’s spirit of service and passion for its veterans traces its roots back to colonial times. She referenced Nathan Hale 1773, who was caught by the British army during the Revolutionary War and hanged.
Cal added that remembering those who gave their life for the nation is one way to honor those who still serve.
“In the tradition of Nathan Hale and all those remembered in Woolsey Hall, Yale is demonstrating that it understands that the defense of our nation and the responsibilities for which it stands are not the responsibilities of a few, but of all,” she said.
However, Cal noted that civilians also have an obligation to support the nation. There is more that the country can do “beyond the platitudes of ‘thank-you for your service’” in helping veterans readjust to stable and healthy lives at home, Cal said.
Senator Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73, who made an unscheduled appearance, also said there is a need for national reform of the treatment of veterans.
“The thank-yous that we give on Veterans Day should be more than just words,” Blumenthal said. “In skill training, jobs, counseling and health care, we still have a lot of work to do to make sure we leave no veteran behind.”
ROTC students interviewed after the ceremony said that the day’s celebrations testified to the tradition of military service at Yale.
Gabrielle Fong ’16, an ROTC member, said that the ceremony was “beautiful and dignified,” adding that the turnout had grown significantly since the ceremony was held her freshman year.
“I am very encouraged by the turn-out, and it was a very moving and well-done ceremony,” Yale College Council president and ROTC member Michael Herbert ’16 said.
Still, people often forget that the plaza is a war memorial, Salovey said after the event.
“This is a memorial to those Yale students who lost their lives in the First World War. These are World War I battles along the Commons facade,” he said. “And we walk by it every day.”
This year marks the 100th anniversary of World War I.