Students, faculty and staff filled the Student Center Atrium on Nov. 9 to observe Veterans Day. Veterans Center Coordinator Lawrence Schmitz hosted the fifth annual observance ceremony. Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Executive Vice President Michael Pernal; Kenneth Bedini, vice president for student affairs; and Edmund Burke, district military and veteran's affairs representative for U.S. Representative Joseph Courtney, also spoke at the ceremony.
President Núñez acknowledged veteran Caleb Diebolt '10, who was instrumental in establishing the first Veterans Day observance at Eastern in 2008. She also cited the service of her brother, a Vietnam War veteran, and her father, a native of Puerto Rico, who also served in the U.S. Army. "We must never forget the sacrifices that our veterans have made, not only in wartime, but being separated from their families and friends. People from all over the Unites States serve in our military services for us, and there is a major adjustment they have to make when they return to civilian life."
Pernal described his tour of duty in the Navy in Italy in the late 1960s at the height of the Vietnam War, when anti-war sentiments in our country cast a shadow over the bravery and service of those who had enlisted or been drafted into the military. "When we came home, we were warned not to wear our military uniforms and to stare straight ahead at the airport, regardless of what kind of reception we might get. So I will never forget the feeling I had when the customs official at JFK greeted me with a salute and a 'Welcome home, sailor.' It meant a lot to me."
Burke reminded the audience that only one percent of Americans have served in the military to protect the rest of us. "The people who have served and have volunteered their time and their effort to give to this country, sometimes ultimately, deserve everything that this nation will give them. And for all of you who are not veterans who chose to be here this morning to honor those veterans, thank you, because you are what we need; you are what we want to come home to."
Later, on Nov. 16, students and staff participated in the Veteran's Day Challenge, a grueling physical challenge designed to raise scholarship money for veterans. The routine involved demanding one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 air squats, followed by another one-mile run. Participants competed in the challenge as a team of four or individually, and could increase the number of points received by wearing a 10-or 20-pound weight vest. Prizes were awarded to lacrosse team members "Team Specie" Kevin Fechtmann, Johnny DiPietro and Keith Sardo.