Showing gratitude to those who served

Elon University’s annual Veterans Day Observance on Wednesday recognized former soldiers and sailors – as well as their families and friends – whose sacrifices have preserved the freedoms enjoyed by those who make the United States their home.

Dr. Michael Brennan
Some spent just a few years in uniform, while others were members of the armed forces for more than half of their adult lives. They once belonged to the Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force, and even the Merchant Marines.

What they all have in common today is their employer: Elon University.

And on Wednesday morning, in an annual Veterans Day program, those professors, administrators and Physical Plant workers – as well as a handful of current students – were honored by the campus community for the sacrifices they and their families made in the process of serving their country.

The Veterans Day Observance led by Professor Matt Valle, himself a veteran of the United States Air Force, brought together dozens of people in LaRose Digital Theatre to thank Elon University employees who served in uniform. The program encouraged non-veteran attendees to commemorate and remember their own relatives who served.

“It’s encouraging to see so many people here today,” Valle said in his program welcome.

Dr. Michael Brennan, an ophthalmologist from Burlington, North Carolina, who serves as past president and international envoy of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, delivered remarks as a guest speaker. Brennan graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1966 and served as an Army aviator in Vietnam, an instructor at West Point and was a finalist in the NASA space shuttle selection process.

Brennan later received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Texas and completed his residency in ophthalmology at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. He served as chief of surgery at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, until retirement from military service in 1986.

Brennan acknowledged the role family and friends play in supporting active-duty soldiers. “Without them, veterans wouldn’t be as strong, and they wouldn’t be as resilient,” he said.

Professor Matt Valle
He asked his audience to stay informed of current events. Unlike previous eras, where American soldiers had a clear understanding of missions and alliances, military conflicts today are asymmetric with shifting allegiances and unclear goals. Knowing what’s happening around the world is another way to show support to soldiers and veterans.

Brennan also asked his audience to be advocates for military service and to encourage young people to consider joining the armed forces.

The Nov. 11 program included a moment of silence and invocation by the Rev. Gerry Waterman, Elon’s associate chaplain for Catholic Life, as well as a video tribute that concluded the event.