Bells rang out at 11 a.m. on Wednesday as a joint color guard from Kent State’s Army and Air Force ROTC raised the American, Ohio and Prisoner of War flags above Risman Plaza in today’s annual Veteran’s Day ceremony.
The crowd of veterans, current ROTC members and university staff stood in silence on the plaza, honoring U.S. Veterans and looking up at the flags atop poles gleaming in the sun.
“Our country is forever indebted to our veterans for their sacrifice, quiet courage and exemplary service,” said Lt. Col. Christian Grimm as he welcomed attendees to the program entitled “Honoring All Those Who Serve.”
Grimm invited all to stand and sing the national anthem along with cadets at exactly 11:11 a.m., marking the first Armistice Day and the moment in 1918 when World War I officially came to an end.
Pastoral Minister Carmen Roebke of the University Parish Newman Center was next to the stage, delivering an invocation calling for blessings on veterans and their families.
“May our hearts be filled with gratitude to our veterans,” Roebke prayed.
Grimm then introduced Kent State President Todd Diacon, who thanked veterans, ROTC students and their family members. President Diacon spoke of Paul Dickson’s book “The Rise of the G.I. Army,” and its theme “from division can come unity.”
Diacon introduced the day’s keynote speaker, District Three Ohio State Representative Haraz Ghanbari. Ghanbari is an Army and Navy veteran, Kent state alum and current Lieutenant Commander in the Navy Reserves.
Ghanbari returned to Kent State in 2002 after his deployment to Bosnia-Herzegovina to finish his photojournalism degree. When he returned to campus, he walked on the same plaza he spoke on today. There, he came across students protesting the United State’s military involvement around the world.
“I was frustrated, at a loss for words,” Ghanbari said.
He turned to a nearby church that Sunday, and asked for prayers to foster conversation with the protesting students.
“I want to encourage all of you not to allow our differences to divide us. Allow our differences to unite us,” he said, echoing Diacon’s message of unity.
Ghanbari went on to speak of his family’s history in the military. His office contains the flags from the caskets of he and his wife’s grandparents, which he called a “daily reminder of a cause greater than our own.”
“If we forget about their service and their sacrifice, we have forgotten about the history of our nation,” concluded Ghanbari, speaking of Veterans from all generations.
As the ceremony concluded, a “Service Song Medley” of each branch of the armed forces song played over the speakers. Veterans took turns standing for the branch they served in, singing along.
The crowd stood in a moment of remembrance as the color guard returned to retire the colors, filing past a green lined with miniature American flags.
Sophie is a reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.