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Eastern honors active, past service members on Veterans Day

Published on November 12, 2021

Eastern honors active, past service members on Veterans Day

Eastern's annual Veterans Day ceremony occured in the Student Center Atrium. 

For the first time since 2019 Eastern celebrated Veteran’s Day with an on-ground, in-person ceremony on Nov. 11 in the Student Center Atrium. 

Following refreshments, SPC Willard Brin of the Connecticut National Guard, a student worker in the Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) Center, welcomed several hundred Eastern students, faculty and staff to the celebration. Citing veterans’ “love of country,” Brin thanked the audience for joining him to honor the 2.3 million active members of the Armed Services and Reserve/National Guard personnel; 19 million living veterans; and the three million Americans who have died or been wounded since 1775 in defense of our country.

National Guard recruiter SSG Patrick Passantino; Eastern Police Department SFC Lauren Fauchon; and students SPC Kathryn Platt and Kassandra Manguaf presented the colors for the ceremony. Eastern’s Chamber Singers sang the National Anthem, conducted by Music Professor David Belles. 

Father Laurence LaPointe offered reflections.  “It is an honor for all of us to be here, an honor enabled by veterans who provide hope for our community today and for our community in the future,” said LaPointe. “We pray that we may inspired by the example of those who have dedicated themselves to the service of the nation.”

A display of Eastern students who have or are currently serving in military service.

National Guard recruiter SSG Patrick Passantino; Eastern Police Department SFC Lauren Fauchon; students SPC Kathryn Platt and Kassandra Manguaf wait to present the colors for the ceremony.

The Eastern Chamber Singers, directed by David Belles, sing the National Anthem.

Lt. Colonel Danao and Eastern President Elsa Nunez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez expressed gratitude to those who made the celebration possible, especially recognizing Eastern’s VETS Center. “We have several hundred active-duty military and veterans enrolled at Eastern. I am proud to share that Eastern was tied for first in New England this fall among public regional universities in service to veterans, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report. Such external validation speaks to the support for veterans provided by our entire campus community!”

Núñez said a relatively small group of people protect our nation. She noted that with a population of 330 million people, we are protected by only 1.4 million active service personnel and another 850,000 Reserves and National Guard. She also said that U.S. service men and women defend not just their own lives and ours, as well as our homeland, they defend the principles of democracy and individual freedom. 

“As Founding Father Alexander Hamilton wrote, ‘There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself in acts of bravery and heroism.’  Heroes overcoming fear to protect the liberty we hold dear — those are the people we are here today to honor. 

“We owe our lives, our land and our freedoms to these brave souls,” continued Núñez. “Today and every day, please find ways — tangible ways — that you can let our servicemen and women know how much you respect and appreciate their sacrifices for each of us.”

Veterans Day speaker Lt. Colonel Joe Danao ’89

SPC Willard Brin of Eastern's Veterans Center welcomes attendees to the ceremony.

Lt. Colonel Joe Danao ’89, who retired after a distinguished 33-year career with the Connecticut Army National Guard, delivered the keynote address. Danao was deployed in Afghanistan. His wife, son and son-in-law are also veterans. His daughter Ashley is an Eastern graduate as well. 

“Peace is precious and worth working towards as a nation and world,” said Danao as he applauded Eastern’s leadership in its service to veterans. “A 19-year old freshman at Eastern has not known peace in their lifetime. This has never happened in our history before.”

Danao also share some good news. “This is the first Veterans Day since Nov. 11, 2000, that our nation hasn’t been at war. We have veterans who spent their entire careers earning their 20-year retirements and have never known peace.”

Danao said today’s generations of warriors includes members from all corners of the nation — all races, genders and walks of life.  He said that no matter who, what and where they are upon enlistment, they have one thing in common — “a commitment to make our country better, stronger and freer and by extension the rest of the world.”

Danao said we also should thank veterans for all they do outside of their military service. “Today our warriors are not just engaged in conflict overseas, they are engaged here on the home team — helping with the war on COVID19, natural disasters, cybersecurity and other homeland missions. The bottom line is, they are stepping up and getting the job done.”

Danao concluded by saying, “We are here to honor all veterans, past and present for their mental and physical sacrifices and commitment of service that helped our nation become a safer and more peaceful place. I salute each of you and your families, for your service, and if you are not a veteran, I salute your commitment to supporting veterans. If you see a vet,  say ‘Thank You!’”

Written by Dwight Bachman

Categories: Veterans