Silence, respect and even serenity. That’s what the community sensed when they united to honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the nation they loved along with the innocent Americans whose lives were taken in the 9/11 attacks.
One by one, the candlelight from the individual candles held by the participants illuminated their still faces as they realized the sacrifice that other had made for their freedoms.
Veterans, students, staff and the community filled the Quad on Nov. 7 for the finale of the Veterans Week celebrations to pay homage to all the lives that were lost, represented on the moveable memorial, The Wall of Remembrance that took up a vast portion of the Quad.
“When we see the names, we see that these were people and more than just a number that’s been reported on the news,” said Ceylon Dugas, a political science major.
Dugas went on to explain that in a way, she felt it was more than a wall. It was more than the number of names on each panel. It was about real people who lived and died for the freedom they believed this nation deserved.
The vigil, hosted by the Veterans Club, opened up with a Civil War-style band, The Band of the California Battalion. Guest speakers and veterans; Derek Hendershot, Ethan Mores, Jay Seidel and Bill Cook shared testimonies of their time in military service as well as what it was like to be a veteran back at home. Each speaker thanked the audience for their support in participating and honoring the veterans by attending the vigil.
Hendershot, who oversees the Vision 2 Victory Wall of Remembrance, was especially thankful for the warm reception that the campus had as well as putting on in what he called one of the best events he’s ever seen on campus.
“The wall continues to do something we all need. It brings healing and sparks hope in remembering our fallen veterans,” said Hendershot. “This campus is doing what needs to be done to help our vets.”
Veterans Week accomplished what Veterans Club President Scott Thompson was determined to fulfill, which was to respect those who gave their lives as well as to raise awareness in honoring the veterans on campus who served.
“As our third annual celebration, this is by far the largest and most elaborate,” said Thompson.
Thompson’s effort did not go unnoticed as he was awarded by American Veterans, a veteran organization with a scholarship for putting together the event. But a humbled Thompson would go on to say that it is the hard working veterans in his club that really brought together the event.
“Scott has sacrificed time with his family and worked tirelessly all week for this event and he’s doing a tremendous job,” said Freddy Viszneki, a Veterans Club member. “We all feel blessed to be a part of this and working alongside him to see this event through.”
Many students gathered throughout the week by attending the events and showing their support to veterans on campus.
The Veterans Week celebrations included two documentaries: “High Ground” and “Restrepo”, which brought awareness to the difficulties that veterans face in combat as well as back home adjusting to civilian life.
“We need to celebrate our veterans whether you agree with the wars they are serving in or not,” said Sandi Rhode, a pre-nursing major. “We need to show them support and that they are appreciated.”
The candlelight vigil was the centerpiece of the week as the event ended. All of the spectators went home but the symbolism and ritual remained.
Before the Veterans Club members dismantled the final panel of the Wall of Remembrance, they grasped hands and said a prayer gathered in a circle around the final upright piece of the wall.
Six of the men silently and respectfully dismantled the piece and gently laid it on top of the others, before draping it with an American flag.
No sound could be heard as the remaining veterans stood straight and saluted that last remaining bit of the wall in tribute to their fallen brothers and sisters.