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President's message on Veterans Day Remembrance

Published: 11/11/2021

American Flag over Old Main, at Gannon University

American Flag over Old Main, at Gannon University

On November 11, 2021, the Gannon community gathered with the Pride of PA Gannon University ROTC Battalion, and guests including MAJ (Ret) Joseph Pfadt, LTC Daniel LaFountain, MS Aaron Coombs, Erie Mayor Joe Schember and others for a Ceremony of Remembrance. Gannon President Dr. Keith Taylor welcomed attendees with the following remarks.

“It is our privilege to have Retired Major Joseph Pfadt here with us, along with Mayor Schember and his wife Rhonda and many other proud Americans celebrating with us here and across our nation today.

This is an important day and an opportunity for our Gannon community to recognize and honor the unmatched contributions and sacrifices made by our nation's Veterans to preserve our freedom. 

President Harry Truman said, ‘Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.’

President Truman’s words remind us that all Veterans should occupy a revered place in our hearts; they are models for and heroes of the American people.

[This week we have welcomed] a President of the United States, Chiefs of Staff, and a historian who will discuss the role of commander in chief all share stories emphasizing the importance of selfless service and the sacrifices made by members of our military and their families. From our nation’s founding, there has always been a select group of Americans willing to fight and die for a cause greater than themselves.

While we set aside a special day each year to honor and remember our veterans, we should continuously endeavor to serve our veterans every day - hopefully as well as they have served our nation.

More than 1,200 Lieutenants have been commissioned from the Pride of PA Senior Army ROTC Battalion since its first commissioning class in 1950. Gannon alumni have continuously served in every major conflict since and six commissioned from the Gannon ROTC program have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation: Lieutenant John Dale, Lieutenant Thomas Grant, Captain Patrick Brophy, Captain David Mitchell, Lieutenant Kenneth Susmarski and Lieutenant Edwin Winter.

We have 43 former service members and family members who are actively studying at Gannon University, seeking no fanfare but continuing to serve our country out of uniform. They are supported by many faculty and staff who are veterans themselves. Some are here today, and it is terrific to have you here.

Gannon ROTC Cadets are active on campus and continue to train and hone their physical, technical, and tactical acumen in the pursuit of carrying on the proud legacy of our service members and the Pride of Pennsylvania. 

Amid a global pandemic and discord across the nation with concerns for racial and social injustices, we need a steady and true hand of guidance. Our military has often brought that sense of confidence, honor, and integrity. In turbulent times, it is not always easy to be a veteran. Fifty years ago, many heroes returned from Vietnam and were discouraged from wearing their uniforms in public places due to the disrespectful actions of some protestors and others who disagreed with policies that were set by our elected officials.

At times, we on college campuses forget that those who ensured our First Amendment rights were these military veterans. Our veterans have been called on to place our country first - and their mission and comrades first. They have answered that call and put others first even amid uncertainty and unrest here in our own country and elsewhere. This is a day that we put Veterans first and show our support with certainty.

By virtue of your participation this morning, you likely have an appreciation for veterans. You are veterans, friends of veterans, family of veterans, co-workers of veterans and neighbors of veterans. It is up to us to ensure that every veteran feels that his or her service to this country is appreciated by their fellow Americans.

There are many tangible ways that we can acknowledge their sacrifice, but the easiest is to simply say, “thank you for what you have done for our country.”

I want to thank each of our veterans for your sacrifices, your dedication, and your service to our great country and to Gannon University, and for your continued steady hand in our communities across the country and across the world.