Lehigh’s Steel Battalion Army ROTC and the Armed Forces Support Club kicked off Veterans Day with a flag raising ceremony and a cannon-firing to honor America’s military veterans.
The ceremony took place at the Clayton University Center at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 11. Steel Battalion cadets, police officers, ex-service personnel, members of the Armed Forces Support Club and other community members were in attendance.
“Starting the day off with the flag raising, it’s really important to us as cadets, as the future leaders of the armed forces, to take a moment and show our respect,” Cadet Jack Narducci, ‘24, said. “To show our thanks for the veterans community. I think sometimes people forget, or take for granted, how we’re able to go about our lives every day because of the people who have sacrificed everything.”
The Lehigh University Steel Battalion ROTC program is one of the oldest in the country. This year marks the 102nd anniversary of its founding.
According to the Battalion’s website, the cadets at Lehigh University and the 11 other participating schools are committed to the seven Army values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.
With a strong focus on service and honoring those who have served the country, the ROTC cadets play a large role in the celebratory events of the day.
“I’ve always been part of a military family, so (Veterans Day) has always been a key part of my life,” Battalion Commander James Ball, ‘22, said. “Finding myself in the service in some capacity by becoming a cadet has made the honoring of the day a lot more personal for me. This is one of the more impactful days for me, for my life.”
In addition to the flag raising ceremony, Lehigh’s 12th annual Veterans Day luncheon followed. This tradition was started and is maintained by Frank Gunter, an economics professor and retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel. This year’s luncheon was held in an in-person setting following last year’s virtual adjustment due to COVID-19, Narducci said.
In an email invitation from the provost, all veterans and ROTC members were encouraged to gather and engage in meaningful conversation while enjoying the meal. The luncheon also features a speaker each year.
The email also noted this year’s keynote speaker: Colonel Kandace M. Daffin, a former enlisted soldier who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She now serves as commanding officer of the second ROTC “Freedom” Brigade, which the Steel Battalion falls under.
Every year following the conclusion of the luncheon, a leadership panel co-planned by the Steel Battalion and the Armed Forces Support Club occurs.
Grace Lee, ‘23, the Armed Forces Support Club president and Steel Battalion cadet, said this is the third year in a row that Lehigh’s Veterans Day celebration has included the event, with each year’s panel centering on a different theme.
Lee was involved in the planning of both the luncheon and panel. Lee said the theme for this year’s panel was diversity and inclusion.
This year’s panelists included Donald Outing, vice president for equity and community and a retired member of the U.S. Army, Cheryl Ites, a Marine Corps veteran who previously worked in the Department of Defense as a program analyst and Tania Brown-Berringer, a Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Lee said the Armed Forces Support Club also held an online fundraiser to raise money for Afghan military translators and refugees who are being housed at a base in New Jersey.
“We hope to use today as a way of bridging the gap between veterans, active service members and members of the ROTC and bringing a familiarity so people of the Lehigh community understand what veterans and service members do and the sacrifices they’ve made,” Lee said. “Today, both cadets and non-cadets are all working together towards that goal.”