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Carolina commemorates Veterans Day at annual ceremony

Despite most of the community working and learning remotely this fall, the University’s Army ROTC program hosted the traditional Veterans Day ceremony on campus Wednesday morning.

Cadets stand in formation at the Veterans Day Ceremony.
Members are Carolina's ROTC programs stand in formation during the annual Veterans Day Ceremony on Nov. 11, 2020. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Standing in formation on a rainy autumn morning, a dozen cadets from Carolina’s ROTC programs gathered to commemorate Veterans Day and pay their respects to the generations of service members who came before them.

Despite most of the community working and learning remotely this fall, the University’s Army ROTC program hosted the traditional Veterans Day ceremony at the Carolina Alumni Memorial in Memory of Those Lost in Military Service on Wednesday morning with cadets representing all branches present in their dress uniforms.

“It’s important that we gather here on Veterans Day to honor every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of the nation — those who selflessly secure the promise of America throughout history,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Hurd, professor of military science.

Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz joined the cadets and their leaders for the 30-minute ceremony, thanking the veterans and future veterans for their service to the country. The ROTC programs, Guskiewicz said, are a shining example of Carolina’s centuries-old mission to serve our state and our nation.

“We’re proud that we have such a robust ROTC program here at Carolina,” he said. “In May, we will commission 17 cadets into the Army, 10 to Navy and 10 into the Air Force.”

The event’s guest speaker was Capt. Andrew Hertel, who leads the Naval ROTC programs at Carolina, Duke and NC State as the commanding officer of the North Carolina Piedmont Consortium NROTC.

“We gather to pay our gratitude to those who risked their lives for the nation that they love,” he said. “In a time when two-dimensional interactions have become the norm, we gather here in person — with proper safety measures — since it’s an important thing to do. Any of us today could have easily delivered remarks from the comfort of our home, but we chose to be here to show our gratitude toward our nation’s veterans.”

Hertel said the ceremony is a significant opportunity to thank the seemingly ordinary people who run “toward danger” for the safety of the country. We may pass these veterans every day without even knowing it, but as a country, we owe them a great debt for their sacrifice, he said.

“In a wonderful way, our veterans are ordinary citizens who have taken the opportunity to contribute to something important, but, of course, there’s nothing ordinary about it,” he said. “There are countless stories of ordinary men and women who have volunteered to serve. Some are recognized publicly for their valor, but countless more never are. Countless more decided, at some point, to walk down to the recruiter’s office and say, ‘I love my country, and I’m here to help.’”

These selfless volunteers, Hertel said, are worthy of our thanks not just on Nov. 11, but every day of the year.

“We should not confine this effort to a single day,” Hertel said. “We must always remember the importance of preparedness and the high cost of liberty. That mission does not and will not stop. That mission doesn’t take holidays, and that mission doesn’t let down its guard. There are people in every corner of the globe from the high north to the South China Sea to the Far East and the Middle East looking out for us right now. We don’t know most of them, but we know what they’re made of. We must always remember that there are people out there willing to serve.”