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Letter from Mark Jones, journalism major in the Class of 1996,
to Elon University President Leo M. Lambert


President Lambert,

My name is Mark Jones. I proudly graduated from Elon in 1996 with a degree in journalism. Some of my life's fondest memories took place on that green grass and red brick.

I am currently a lieutenant in the United States Navy. I am writing this letter from the aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE, where I serve as a flight deck officer. We have now been in the Middle East for three months. On the afternoon on September 11th, our ship was on its way home after a long but successful 6-month deployment. We had been steaming our way out of the Persian Gulf for less than 12 hours. As we watched the horrific events of that terrible day unfold on our satellite television, we could literally feel our huge ship list to starboard as we turned around and headed back to the hottest place in the world.

In the past three weeks, as my fellow sailors and I have been standing on station, waiting for our call to action, my thoughts have gone back to Elon. I know that many Elon students and alumni have been greatly affected by these events. I was relieved to hear that none of my close friends and other alumni fell victim to the attacks. I know that Elon's strong student community has come together to support each other in this time of hurting and confusion.

Now more than ever, we as Americans need to pull together. Our freedom is an extremely precious thing. Not only do we have the freedoms of speech, religion, and government, but also the freedom from living our lives in fear and the freedom of not having to look up in the sky and wonder what is coming next. That fateful morning, that freedom was taken away. We as Americans have an obligation to retake that freedom. If we live in constant fear, then the terrorists have won the battle. We need to go back to living our lives, always vigilant, but with our heads held up high. We are proud Americans. Though they may hit us, but they will never knock us down.

We must exhaust every resource possible to ensure that events like this will never happen again. The students of Elon are America's best and brightest. They will be the leaders of America in a brave new world. The pride of Elon will walk across the stage, as so many have before, but now into a world in need of guidance, perseverance, patience and good judgment. Elon students exemplify all of these qualities. They were instilled in us under the oak trees, in the dormitories and in the classrooms. Since September 11th, the Elon family has already started to rebuild our nation and make it stronger. They are teachers, comforting the fears of our children. They are stockbrokers and financial advisers keeping our economy stable. They are business managers, keeping our workforces strong. They are even catapult officers on the flight decks of aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. Elon students are going to be the bond that will keep our nation together and stronger than ever before.

I regret that I will not be able to attend Homecoming this year. It will be the first one I have missed. I imagine that I will still be here on the other side of the globe. But in my mind, I will be sitting on the 50-yard line of our new football stadium, enjoying the company of my friends, the people who are going to keep America the land of the free.

Thank you for your time.

Respectfully,
LTJG Mark Jones '96
USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65)



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