DeSales University commemorated Veterans Day with a solemn ceremony and the dedication of a new Veterans Memorial Plaza.
Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the community were on hand to pay tribute to those who served and sacrificed. Veteran students and faculty members took part in the remembrance, including Dr. Wayne Stuart, director of the physician assistant program who served 11 years active duty in the U.S. Army.
“There are a lot of veterans at DeSales and we need to recognize them,” Stuart said. “Thirty years ago when veterans came back from Vietnam they were not recognized and now it’s very nice that the public is acknowledging the sacrifice that veterans make when they serve this country.”
Members of the VFW Post #3405, in Coopersburg, Pa., posted the colors, while above the American flag, state flag, and papal flag were all blowing in the wind. The audience, many with hands over their hearts, listened as the University Chorale sang The National Anthem and “America, the Beautiful.”
Ryan Gutshall, a history major and ROTC cadet, recalled the words of President John F. Kennedy and urged the crowd to recognize the nation’s veterans not just on this day but everyday. “Even though we have this day to celebrate the service of many, it is truly everyday that we as Americans must remember the sacrifice of all those generations who came before, who are present now, and who will be in the future.”
Father Bernard O’Connor, OSFS, president of the University, blessed the memorial. Laura Hasker (above center), an MBA student who served in the Air Force, Nicholas Latham (above, right), an ACCESS student who served in the Navy and Marine Corps, and Frankie Spraggs (above, left), an ACCESS alumnus who served in the Navy and Marine Corps, laid a wreath in front of the plaza.
Familiar faces lined the crowd, including State Representative Justin Simmons, Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller, and Coach John Compardo, who served in the Navy during World War II and founded the DeSales athletic department.
Compardo called the plaza a beautiful reminder of those who served, suffered, and gave their lives. “We cannot speak enough for that which happened to the lives of young men, many of them who were placed in positions far beyond their imaginations, who gave of themselves without question and did an excellent job.”
For Latham, the memorial is a symbolic representation of the support and reverence that DeSales has for those who served. He left home at the age of 18 and received the Bronze Star with Valor in 2010 for saving the life of a Marine who had stepped on a Taliban landmine in southern Afghanistan and lost both legs. “We wrote our own wills at 18,” he said. “We didn't get much sleep most nights. We didn't get paid much. We didn't know when we would go home to see our families again. But we knew one thing: we were brothers out there and that made it all worth it."
Construction on the memorial started over the summer. It was helped made possible by a gift from Drexel Hamilton, LCC, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business and a full-service institutional broker-dealer founded on the principle of offering meaningful employment opportunities to disabled veterans desiring a career in financial services.
DeSales University currently has 104 veterans taking classes through different programs. The dedication comes weeks after the opening of a new Veterans Lounge in Dooling Hall. “We have a group of people who provided the ultimate service,” said Joann E. Haws, assistant dean of lifelong learning. “It’s important we let our veteran population know their service is recognized and valued.”
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