They came from different generations and remembered different wars. Two had served in World War II, 65 years ago. A dozen hailed from Vietnam-era service. Many young men and women had been, all too recently, posted in Iraq or Afghanistan.
On one day, they were all comrades and members of the University community, gathered together in observance of Veterans Day.
The third annual UMass Lowell flag-raising ceremony was a solemn event, marked by military formality, from the ritual unfolding of the American flag to the last notes of Taps from a distant trumpet.
Introducing UMass Lowell’s chancellor was student veteran Christian Elwood, president of the Student Veterans Organization (SVO) and winner of the 2010 Eagle Award for Outstanding Student Veteran.
“My ambition is to see the Student Veterans Organization establish a distinguishing beacon for veterans to seek and recognize when they hear the name of UMass Lowell. As the administration has supported, we are achieving the status of a military-friendly school, and I challenge you all to continue the legacy of service and bring our cameraderie and culture to the academic environment,” said Elwood.
“You and your family embody what this University is all about,” responded Chancellor Marty Meehan. “We’re proud of your service, proud of your academic achievements and know you are heading for great things,”
Meehan also spoke of challenges: “We’re looking at a generation of Americans coming back from military service. Not only are we not prepared with the medical and rehabilitative services that are needed, but our colleges and universities need to do a better job at preparing each and every individual student veteran for success, in order to meet our mission.”
U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, a member of the Armed Services Committee who has visited troops in Afghanistan and Iraq on several trips, acknowledged the thousands currently deployed and in harm’s way.
“We must make sure that the injuries our veterans have sustained do not become barriers to employment,” she said, noting that disabled veterans account for disproportionate numbers of the unemployed.
“Military members and veterans make a difference,” said Janine Wert, director of Veterans Services. “In a time of voluntary service, each has chosen to serve. They have leadership skills that are battle-tested. They have real life experience and that, married with their schooling, makes them wise beyond their years. Today, we honor each one, publicly and privately. Today, we acknowledge their determination to make a difference.”
Veterans Hall of Fame
Wert recognized the first inductees into UMass Lowell’s Veterans Hall of Fame. Two of the four World War II veterans inducted were present at the flag-raising: James Derby, U.S. Army Air Corps, 8th Air Force; and Robert Meister, U. S. Army Signal Corps. Also inducted were John Leitch, U.S. Navy, and Stanley Werkowski (posthumously), U.S. Army.
The entire USAF ROTC Detachment #345 Armed Drill Team, Pershing Rifles, Squadron N-12 was inducted as a group into the Hall of Fame. The team, which was active during the era of the Vietnam War, was represented by USAF Lt. Col. Peter Maravelias (retired) and Robert Nadeau, who presented Meehan with an original drill team rifle. Also present were members Joseph Cartwright, Edward Kittredge, Alexander Kulas and Francis Hynes.
In a personal reunion, the keynote speaker — U.S. Marine Col. Gregory Boyle (retired), commander of the USMC Wounded Warrior Regiment — was introduced by a former member of the regiment, USMC Corp. Nicholas Lanteri, accompanied by his service dog, Fenway.
“Honor, courage and commitment are the core values the Marine Corps was built on,” said Lanteri, recipient of a Purple Heart. “Being wounded was hard, but Colonel Boyle kept those values active in the regiment. He not only helped in the recovery of this wounded warrior, but many others like myself.”
The Wounded Warrior Regiment didn’t exist before Boyle started it in 2007.
“In my 30 years as a Marine, that job was the most rewarding and most satisfying,” said Boyle, who was responsible for the Regiment’s 23 detachments worldwide, including its battalions at Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton. “The Regiment is responsible for the non-medical needs of wounded, ill and injured Marines and sailors. Our mission is to provide caring and concerned leadership.”
Gala Events Mark Veterans Week
On Saturday, Nov. 5, a golf outing and barbecue were held at Meadow Creek Golf Club in Dracut. The first annual Veterans Military Legacy Ball and Veterans Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, held at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, started with cocktails and dinner and ended with dancing.
During the program, Daniel B. Brosnan Jr. and Mary Sloan donated a POW/MIA flag in memory and honor of their father, Daniel B. Brosnan. A Lowell native, Brosnan served in World War II in the U.S. Army Infantry, was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in France, was captured by the German Army and held as a prisoner of war until April 1, 1945.
The keynote speaker was Francisco Urena, newly named Commissioner of Veterans Services for Boston, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a graduate of UMass Lowell. Urena was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal for heroic actions and quick decisiveness during combat operations in Iraq and the Purple Heart for injuries sustained. He also served in diplomatic security for the State Department, becoming fluent in both Arabic and Russian. Urena was the Veterans Service director in Lawrence before taking the Boston post.
First in Speaker Series
A panel of student and alumni veterans comprised the first in a planned Veterans Speaker Series to be held on campus. Convening after the flag-raising ceremony and reception, the panel included Lanteri, representing current students; Maravelias and Nadeau, representing the 1960s to 1970s; and WWII-era alumni Derby and Meister.
“Veterans across generations could share their experiences and that special bond of military service,” says Wert, who moderated the panel.