Saint Leo Community Honors Veterans During Annual Ceremony
November 15, 2016
Saint Leo celebrated Veterans Day on Friday with an 11 a.m. ceremony at University Campus that was live-streamed so students, faculty, and staff everywhere could watch and honor those who served.
Pamela Martis, retired U.S. Army colonel and director of Saint Leo’s Office of Military Affairs and Services, welcomed everyone to the ceremony, which was held on the loggia of the School of Business building.
Veterans Day is observed on November 11, because at 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, the armistice was signed, ending World War I. The observance, held on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, was known as Armistice Day. In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower made Veterans Day a national celebration of all veterans.
Saint Leo’s Army ROTC presented the colors and student-veteran, Todd Burnap, retired U.S. Army staff sergeant, sang the national anthem. Father Kyle Smith, chaplain, asked for God’s blessing on all veterans.
Student-veteran James Campbell spoke about the uniqueness of America’s military, which is all-volunteer. While there are many differences, the U.S. military is diverse, Campbell noted, and all sacrifice their freedom to secure freedom for others around the globe.
Tobias Neal, the second student-veteran speaker for Friday’s ceremony, spoke of how he didn’t know what to think when someone says, “thank you for your service.”
“We do what we do,” he said of the U.S. military. “Service connects to a word called sacrifice.”
Neal’s grandfather told him that the greatest thing is to serve another human being. He told of a woman who called him to thank him for saving her life several years earlier after he took her to a hospital, and she had her stomach pumped. “She’s married, has three kids, and is a teacher. She has a history.
“You may have saved someone’s life and given them a history,” Neal told his fellow veterans.
State representative Danny Burgess Jr., a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was the guest speaker for Saint Leo’s Veterans Day ceremony. He said he always looks forward to Veterans Day and visiting Saint Leo as he and his wife Courtney were married in the Abbey Church.
Burgess said he had the opportunity to wear different career hats. “But none make me more proud than to wear the uniform and the hat of the U.S. Army Reserve.”
Veterans’ service to their country and to their community inspired him to a life of service, he said.
“So many of our soldiers are stilling fighting a war at home,” he said. “They are taught how to wear a uniform, but not how to take it off.”
He encouraged others to help veterans in need and suggested one way to honor our veterans is “never taking our freedoms for granted. And whatever you do, do it well. That’s another way to honor our veterans.”
Vice President of Business Development Robert Quinn, who served in the U.S. Army as a captain, and Burgess presented a wreath at the ceremony to honor the fallen U.S. servicemembers.
Students provided musical selections, and perhaps the most poignant was Eddie Gemma’s rendition of “Letters from War.”
She walked to the mailbox
On that bright summer's day
Found a letter from her son
In a war far away
He spoke of the weather
And good friends that he'd made
Said I've been thinkin' bout dad
And the life that he had
That's why I'm here today
And the at the end he said
You are what I'm fighting for
It was the first of his letters from war
She started writing you're good
And you're brave
What a father that
You'll be someday
Make it home
Make it safe
She wrote every night as she prayed
- Mark Schultz, “Letters from War”