A salute to the veterans
Photos by Evan Krape November 11, 2019
Ceremony celebrates crucial links between the community and its defenders
Standing firm against the crisp fall wind, 7,028 American flags fluttered in unison across the north Green at the University of Delaware on Friday, Nov. 8, serving as a somber backdrop to a Veterans Day ceremony that celebrated the common cause connecting soldiers and citizens.
Too often, Americans lose sight of the many conflicts being fought on their behalf, said keynote speaker Maj. Gen. Michael Berry, a UD alumnus who now serves as adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard. Too often, he told the dozens of staffers and students gathered outside Memorial Hall, the sacrifices of those who serve go unrecognized, and seem unremarkably routine.
“Certainly, on the grounds of this University, those in harm’s way seem almost surreal in their distance and separation,” Berry said at the annual event, called the Flags for the Fallen Tribute. “This ceremony is so much larger than the recognition of our fallen heroes. This ceremony is about creating a link between those members of our society who are not serving in uniform and those who have answered the call.”
As he spoke, an honor guard of UD Army ROTC students stood unflinching, bearing flags of their nation and their “Fightin’ Blue Hens Battalion.” Nearby, members of the UD’s Blue Hen Veterans student group, UD President Dennis Assanis and Provost Robin Morgan listened as bagpiper Jeff Edwards played the keening sounds of “Flowers of the Forest,” a Scottish folk tune that has honored sacrifice for centuries.
Behind them all, stretching from Memorial toward Main Street, The Green undulated with neat rows of small American flags, planted by more than a hundred ROTC and veteran volunteers each year in memory of the service men and women who have died since the terror attacks of 2001.
Each year on this day, that number rises, and the task of transforming The Green becomes a greater task. But student veterans like Jason Wardrup, who saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, knows others will rise to take his place. And in his years at UD, he has felt a growing sense of support from UD, which recently announced it will build a Veteran and Military Success Center at Trabant Student Center.
“We’re stoked about that,” said Wardrup, who will graduate next year with a master’s degree in public administration. “We believe it will be a great tool for communicating better with veterans on campus, and giving them help with transition issues.”
That communication is key to success for student veterans, who say they struggle to find empathy and understanding on a campus of younger students. “The Success Center is going to be the gateway to better things ahead,” said Todd Glessner, president of Blue Hen Veterans and a veteran of two Army tours in Iraq.
UD has about 250 students receiving veterans benefits on campus, but just eight currently belong to Blue Hen Veterans. Glessner encouraged interested students to sign up through www.bluehenveterans.org, and is hopeful the new Success Center will help raise visibility and boost participation.
The center’s potential will be enhanced by the presence of UD’s veterans services coordinator Brooks Raup, whose office will be on site. “December will be my three-year mark, and from three years ago until today, it’s amazing the things we have done,” said Raup, who points to a succession of accomplishments:
- Beginning this fall, a new policy will give veterans academic credit for the skills they have learned and the knowledge they have mastered in the military.
- Earlier this month, UD hosted its inaugural career and wellness fair for veterans.
- In July, UD launched a health and wellness program for veterans.
- For 2019, UD was ranked No. 5 among Top 10 Gold Military Friendly Schools.
- In 2017, the University started a partnership with the Wilmington Veterans Affairs Medical Center, vowing to focus on research to improve care for America’s military veterans.
While work remains to be done before Success Center is opened to students, the grand opening is set for Tuesday, Nov. 12, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in room 226 of the Trabant University Center. All are welcome. On Saturday, Nov. 16, UD hosts a Salute to Service veterans’ tailgate before the Blue Hen football matchup against Stony Brook University.
With such support from the community and from UD, veterans say they can see a better destiny for themselves. When that community’s bond to its service members is strong, the nation’s leaders might be less inclined to have them put in harm’s way, Berry said.
“As long as our population stays true to this unwritten contract, it will fully understand that contract and realize that our most precious natural resource, our service men and women, should only be put in harm’s way when absolutely necessary,” he told the crowd.