November 11, 2012

In Honor of Veterans Day, Cornellians Thank Military

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Speakers and attendees reflected on the importance of honoring members of the military at Cornell’s annual Veterans Day ceremony in Sage Chapel Friday.

After the presentation of colors and Cassidy Molina’s ’15 performance of the National Anthem, Rev. Rick Bair, a Lutheran Chaplain of Cornell United Religious Works, emphasized the selflessness of servicemen and women.

“We owe a debt of more than gratitude to those who have sacrificed and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, deeming their lives less precious than the lives of strangers in need,” Bair said.

During the 40-minute ceremony –– which was sponsored by Cornell’s Office of Workforce Diversity, Equity and Life Quality and the University’s ROTC programs — retired U.S.  Force Major General Michael Hall ’68 spoke about the military’s role in American society. He said the military should “project determination” to other nations and emphasized the importance of honorable behavior among its members.

“What you do in times of peace is just as important as what you do in times of war,” he said.

Hall, who served in an air campaign in Kuwait during the first Gulf War before retiring in 1995, also stressed the influence that ROTC membership had on his time at Cornell. He advised his 200-person audiencee –– composed primarily of ROTC members and their families –– to take advantage of the diverse opportunities offered at Cornell.

But Hall’s tone was somber as he described the hardships faced by members of the military, citing in particular his grandfather’s wounds in World War I from a mustard gas attack.

“Take a moment to look to your left and right, then imagine that all the people you see had been killed,” Hall said.

Cornell IT security liaison David Juers, a Vietnam War veteran who attended Friday’s ceremony, said parts of Hall’s address –– including his point that military action should be a last resort if peacekeeping efforts are unsuccessful –– resonated with him.

“I recognized a couple things, like military action being a result of failure in other areas,” he said.

Cadet Carrissa Bartlett ’13, who organized the event, said she thought it was a success.

“I think it ran very smoothly,” Bartlett said. “The speaker was amazing. I liked what he talked about. I thought it was interesting that he linked past conflicts to current engagements.”

In his address, Hall also commented on the impermanence of military solutions. He urged audience members to force their representatives to “answer the hard questions.”

“Today, our superbly trained military asks less of us than ever before,” he said. “Are we ready to support the real needs of veterans when they return from wars we can ignore?”

Original Author: Sarah Cutler