Saint Leo University’s annual celebration of Veterans Day was held on Nov. 11. The event, which has usually been held in the Greenfelder-Denlinger Boardrooms in the Student Community Center, had a change of location to the Loggia outside the School of Business building. The ceremony saw favorable weather and a large crowd which consisted of students, professors and current military members and their families.
The celebration paid homage to the valiant individuals who have served in areas of the active military, navy, or air force and have been honorably discharged or released. Director of Veteran Student Services, retired U.S. Army Colonel Pamela Martis, presided over the event and welcomed the students, administrators, guests, and veterans.
She delivered the history of veteran’s day as well as its significance to the country by stating, “It is a day to honor those who continue to serve in harm’s way to protect our fellow Americans.”
Following this was a posting of the colors by Saint Leo University’s ROTC cadets accompanied by a rousing rendition of the National Anthem by retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Todd Burnap.
Father Kyle Smith, the chaplain of University Ministry, offered the invocation while student veterans James Campbell and Tobias Neil shared their reflections on Veterans Day. In his speech, senior James Campbell brought across the point that, “What makes the United States unique is that we have an all voluntary military force regardless of political ideologies, religious background or economic class. U.S. citizens selflessly volunteer to enlist or commission into the U.S. military.”
Campbell stated that the Saint Leo University community has been very involved with National Veterans Organization and is on its way to becoming the first recognized Omega Delta Sigma chapter in Florida. He added that the Students Veterans of America Organization (SVA) encourages participation among students, veterans, and the ROTC.
Campbell also delivered a powerful reflection on the significance of Veterans Day. He stated that he is sometimes taken aback by displays of gratitude for his service because, to him and fellow veterans, it is simply a matter of doing what needs to be done. Campbell said the following to veterans who wonder what they have done in the wars that they have participated in.
“Sometimes they need to understand that maybe you can’t see it but you actually may have saved somebody’s life and given them a history.” In concluding his speech, Campbell said, “All of us gave some and some of us gave all for everything to be a shield to the people of this nation and on this day I am very proud to stand with my other brothers and sisters as veterans.”
Vice President Robert T. Quinn, a former U.S. Army Captain, also provided welcoming remarks stated that, “For over forty (40) years Saint Leo has played a special role in the lives of active military, veterans and their families,” tailoring programs and creating opportunities for the almost thirty percent (30%) of the student body which is comprised of active military, veterans and their families.
Vice President Quinn had also heartily introduced this year’s guest speaker, Florida Representative Danny Burgess, U.S. Army Reserve Captain and former mayor of Zephyrhills. The University of South Florida alum and practicing attorney delivered a patriotic and thought-provoking speech on how individuals can honor veterans.
“Veterans Day is about honoring those who have served, and I can’t think of a better way to honor them for their sacrifices than by showing our gratitude and pride for living in the greatest country in the world…” said State Rep. Burgess. “Another way we honor our veterans is by not taking our freedoms for granted. People have died for these freedoms; people have lost so much to defend what we sometimes so often take for granted.”
To conclude his speech, State Rep. Burgess urged all the attendees, particularly the students, to take a step back, think about what they would like to do in life and to do it well. He advises students to, “Leave the world a better place than it was before you were here, that’s how you honor our veterans.”