Men and women who have served in the U.S. military were thanked and recognized during Elon's annual Veterans Day event on Nov. 11.
Members of the Elon community filled LaRose Digital Theatre on Tuesday and collectively said “thank you” to those who have served in the United States military. The Veterans Day Observance offered students, faculty and staff an opportunity to pause and publicly recognize men and women who have worn their country’s uniform.
Led by Professor Matt Valle, a veteran of the United States Air Force, and a team of student volunteers, the event featured brief remarks, a prayer, a video tribute and a roll call of retired and current personnel from the armed forces and the National Guard. More than a dozen current Elon employees stood to be honored as they quickly detailed their military service for the assembled crowd. The program also allowed attendees to recognize their own veterans.
Valle, who is the Martha and Spencer Love Professor of Business, offered the opening remarks for this year’s ceremony and framed his comments around Elon’s values of commitment and engagement.
“It says in our Elon Commitment Strategic Plan that our first priority as a community is our commitment to diversity and engagement,” Valle said. “What I believe that means is that we should engage others who are different, and learn about them, so that we can understand their perspective. You don’t have to agree with that perspective, but you do have to try to understand it. You owe people that much. Today we have in our presence people of difference: people who have chosen to serve their country in the military.”
Valle went on to tell the crowd about recent Elon alumnus Lt. John Pratson ’12, a Marine who has deployed to Afghanistan.
“He experienced his first sandstorm after being in-country just a few weeks,” Valle relayed. ”His emails tell you about the patrols he has been on, the people he has seen, and the sights, sounds and smells of Afghanistan. They tell you about the simple things that he and his men have come to appreciate – a good book, a cool breeze, and a few minutes to hang out and talk. And they hint at the danger he faces every day. Through his writing you would come to learn of the immense pride that he has in his men, his mission and himself, and of the gratitude he feels toward a nation that has given him the opportunity to lead Marines in this time, in this place, and in this way.”
By telling Pratson’s story, Valle hoped those gathered would feel encouraged to interact with those who have or are currently serving.
“I ask that you engage someone like John,” Valle said. “Learn a bit about what they know. Learn a bit about how they served, where they served and what they learned. Take that one small step and you will be on a path to understanding. In that way, perhaps the meaning of our shared commitment to diversity and engagement will become clear to you.”
To complement the observance ceremony, the day began with a special Veterans Day College Coffee at Chandler Plaza. Students, faculty and staff were offered the opportunity to write a thank you card to veterans. A number of the cards were given to veterans who attended the ceremony, while the rest will be distributed to active, reserve and veteran military members.
Elon has played a role in developing leaders for the American armed forces dating to the school’s earliest years when 35 percent of the Elon College Class of 1918 volunteered to serve in the first World War. The institution also served a pivotal role in training pilots for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, and the institution welcomed returning soldiers that swelled enrollment and permanently guaranteed the college’s financial stability.
Alumni Memorial Gymnasium recognizes alumni who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation, and today a robust ROTC program sends university graduates into the military each spring as commissioned officers.