Members of the Yale community gathered in Battell Chapel on Monday afternoon to honor servicemen and women in an annual Veterans Day ceremony.
Secretary Kimberly Goff-Crews and University President Peter Salovey opened the celebration with brief remarks thanking those who have served in the military. While celebrating veterans at large, they specifically recognized the sacrifices of Yale graduates. The Veterans Day committee, in conjunction with the yearlong anniversary celebrations for coeducation at Yale, also honored three women for their dedication to supporting veterans at Yale.
“When today has passed, and we return to our daily lives, I hope that all of us will continue to remember the men and women of Yale who have faithfully served and have taken their oaths to protect and serve,” Goff-Crews said in her welcome.
Goff-Crews also highlighted the return of the ROTC program to campus in 2012, which resulted in the integration of ROTC cadets in classrooms and residential colleges. Though Yale established a Navy ROTC unit in 1926, the military did not renew this contract after 1960, a period marked by student protests against the Vietnam War.
In his address, Salovey emphasized this history of veterans at Yale and referenced notable alumni who served in the U.S. armed forces. These figures included Nathan Hale, a spy in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War; Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Creed, the first African American to earn a Yale degree; and computer scientist Grace Hopper, the namesake of Hopper College.
Following the presentation of colors by the Yale Police Department Color Guard and the performance of the national anthem by a School of Music brass ensemble, Moses Cho ’20 delivered a keynote speech.
Cho, a political science major, served in the Marine Corps for four years before studying at community college and matriculating to Yale in 2016. He is part of a growing cohort of Eli Whitney students at Yale who returned to higher education after service. Grateful for a “land of opportunity” and a “nation that has accepted someone like [him],” Cho enlisted in the military after meeting a high school recruiter. Drawing audience laughs when he described the painful, arduous training process, he recounted becoming an amphibious assault vehicle technician in the Marine Corps despite his bouts of seasickness.
Although his speech made light of the challenges he faced while in service, Cho also reflected on the spirit of camaraderie he encountered in the Marine Corps.
“It was in the Marine Corps that I met someone for the first time in my life that was willing to take the time to walk me through some things step-by-step until I fully understood,” Cho said.
Many attendees of the ceremony were veterans themselves or knew someone who has served. Von Narcisse, a Yale Police captain, said that several of his friends and family had served, “some still with us, some not.” He hoped to honor the “extreme dedication to this country of folk serving in our military.”
After Cho’s remarks, Kenny Chauby MUS ’20 and Melissa Muñoz MUS ’20 played “Taps” to commemorate military personnel who lost their lives in service. Alongside Lyman McBride MUS ’20 and Aidan Zimmermann MUS ’20, they performed a musical salute to the armed forces. Veterans and active service members sitting in the pews of Battell Chapel stood up to be recognized during their branch’s song.
Senior Counselor to the President Linda Lorimer, who helped inaugurate the annual ceremony, presented certificates to Lori Rasile, Norma Thompson and Patricia Wei -— all three of whom are Yale employees who have worked to increase University support of veterans.
Marcia Thomas came to the ceremony to support Rasile, her colleague at the School of Nursing.
“She’s always an advocate for veterans’ activities and affairs,” Thomas said. “She’s been at Yale for 20 years and has always been active. She’s known by everyone as an inspiration.”
Thompson, a professor in the humanities department, spends part of her summer each year as a lecturer for the Warrior-Scholar Project, which she helped pilot at Yale in 2012. The project has since spread to nearly 20 university campuses and offers college preparatory boot camps to help veterans transition into an academic setting.
Wei, who is the director of admissions for the Eli Whitney program, told the News that veterans, because of their professional life experiences, “bring a very different perspective” to campus and “add so much to the community.”
Besides the efforts of these women, initiatives through the Yale Veterans Association and the Yale Veterans Network further support this community of service members at Yale. The University also honors its veteran alumni in Woolsey Hall’s Memorial Rotunda, where the names of Yale alumni and faculty who died in military combat are inscribed on its marble walls.
Although classes continued as usual on Monday, an email shared with the Yale community spread word of the ceremony. Attendees said they appreciated the commitment of Yale to formally recognize veterans’ contributions.
“In this day and age, with all the political challenges that are going on in this country, Veterans Day is a way to bring people together and remember how great this country is and all the people who serve it are,” Thomas said.
American flags were also planted on Cross Campus in honor of the holiday.
Emily Tian | firstname.lastname@example.org