Capt. Daniel L. Weed, a commanding officer of the U.S. navy and professor of naval science for the Naval ROTC program at Cornell University, said his years of military service have been some of the most important in his life.
“I look back on my career as the pinnacle of my lifetime,” he said. “I had many challenges that helped forge and sharpen my personality.”
Weed, who served in Operation Desert Strike in the Arabian Gulf in 1996 and also spent 11 years in Japan, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Veterans Day celebration at Ithaca College, and said his navy years have been given him an sense of pride.
“I made many friends around the world, and I’m very excited and proud that I’ve been able to serve my country,” he said. “I would encourage all Americans to be able to participate in military or civic service to support our country.” The Eighth Annual Veterans Day Celebration at the College will honor the dedication and service of men and women. The free event, which will be held from noon to 1 p.m. today at Ford Hall in the Whalen Center for Music, will feature performances by IC Voices, the faculty-staff chorus, and the Ithaca College Brass Choir.
President Tom Rochon will open the event, and Rev. James Touchton will preside over the invocation. The celebration will include a two-minute video montage assembled by Information Technology Services that features images like Mount Rushmore, wheat fields and soldiers set to the tune of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
Weed, who has received decorations including the Legion of Merit, said the theme of his presentation is whether veterans are American heroes.
“My premise is that, based on their service and the commitment that they’ve made to their country, that they truly are and should be referred to as American heroes,” he said.
Weed said he hopes people will recognize that those serving in the armed forces are some of the most dedicated and hardworking people in American society.
Jane Ray, human resources specialist and co-chair of the event, said she encourages attendees to serve those who have served by bringing donations to the ceremony such as books, boot socks and coffee. Items will be used to put together care packages for troops serving overseas.
“Every year we try to encourage people to come out and support this, whether they support the war or not — whether they support the current political agenda that’s happening [or not],” she said. “We want people to come out and support the people who actually serve.”
Faculty members and 20 students from the college participated in The Pillowcase Project, part of the national charity effort 1 Million Pillowcase Challenge. Their red, white and blue pillowcases will be on display during the ceremony and will be sent overseas along with the care packages.
In addition to the celebration at the college, the 91st annual Veterans Day Celebration, organized by the Tompkins County Veterans Day Committee, will be held at 11 a.m. in Dewitt Park in Ithaca.
Laura Ujlaki, chair of the Tompkins Country Veterans Day Committee, said the theme of the Dewitt Park celebration this year is on Cold War veterans, who she said make up the largest population of U.S. veterans yet have gone historically unrecognized.
“For soldiers who served from 1945-1991, there’s no official medal for their service because it’s technically non-wartime, no matter how much they served and everything they sacrificed,” she said.
Ujlaki said she hopes the Dewitt Park celebration instills a sense of pride in Ithaca’s veterans.
“Veterans are usually very humble,” she said. “They served their country and they’re proud of it, and sometimes it’s difficult to live with.”
Kim Dunnick, professor of music and master of ceremonies for the college’s Veterans Day celebration, will preside over the Pledge of Allegiance at the college’s ceremony. Dunnick said the celebration is a way to honor and reflect on those who have served.
“People who serve are giving up a lot,” Dunnick said. “It’s not a particularly well-paying job, and they often find themselves in harm’s way.”