December 20, 2001

Support for ROTC Bolstered by Sept. 11

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The flagpole outside Barton Hall was in disrepair, and the stars and stripes had not flown outside the Army, Navy/Marine Corps, and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) offices for a year. Within 48 hours of the attacks of Sept. 11, however, President Hunter R. Rawlings III had ordered the pole to be repaired, said Capt. James R. Alley, naval science.

For the Prisoners of War Missing in Action Day observation several weeks later, Midn. Thomas Sheldon ’02 was dressed in summer whites, manning the war memorial on West Campus. A car donning an American flag honked the horn and gave Sheldon a thumbs-up as it drove past the services.

Stories like these help show that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the Cornell community has given more recognition to the campus ROTC programs.

“That much acknowledgment and support for being in ROTC hadn’t happened to me before [Sept. 11],” Sheldon said.

Coming Together

Usually he watches CNN before classes, but on the morning of Sept. 11, Sheldon went straight to his 10:10 a.m. class. Having only heard bits and pieces from different people, he didn’t know the impact of the events until he saw concerned students trying to contact their families on cell phones.

“That’s when it hit me,” he said.

The first place he went after that was the Navy ROTC lounge, where midshipmen gather and socialize. Many have described the ROTC as a family that was especially meaningful after Sept. 11.

“Being in Navy ROTC helped me because my fellow midshipmen and officers were very supportive,” said Midn. Kris Skovron ’05.

Once the initial shock calmed, midshipmen and cadets began to see their roles as part of the ROTC with a new perspective.

“There was a heightened sense of awareness through the entire corps of cadets. The events of Sept. 11 brought their decision to be in ROTC to reality — they will eventually be leaders,” said Lt. Col. Robert J. Sova, military science.

Maj. James D. O’Connor, military science, agrees.

“The students accepted it as professional officers should. That speaks to the strength of this program,” he said.

‘Dignity and Honor’

Skovron said she joined ROTC to follow in the footsteps of her hero, a retired captain in the Navy.

“I always admired his sense of dignity and honor. I’ve always wanted to be part of a noble institution like the military,” she said.

She said she felt the heightened sense of awareness that many of her fellow midshipmen and cadets shared.

“The seniors will be out there in less than a year. It’s a big deal. I’m willing to risk my life so that Sept. 11 won’t happen again,” Skovron said.

Archived article by Emily Adelman