February 1, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 21°F


College lauds veteran military service

This year’s Veterans Day Celebration holds a new meaning for active and veteran soldiers in the wake of President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Members of Cornell University’s ROTC program march in the annual Veterans Day parade Sunday in Ithaca. The procession began on Cayuga Street and ended at the VFW Post 961 on West State Street. Rachel Woolf/The Ithacan

The event will feature performances by the IC Brass Choir, conducted by Beth Peterson, associate professor of music education, as well as IC voICes, a chorus made up of administrators, faculty and staff, and conducted by Susan Avery, also an associate professor of music education.

Jane Ray, a member of the Veterans Celebration Committee, said the celebration will honor past and current service members.

“It’s mainly a musical tribute to veterans, those who are currently serving and those who have served,” she said.

LeBron Rankins, a staff psychologist at the college, will serve as the celebration’s keynote speaker. Rankins, a veteran himself, said it’s encouraging to see the college making a conscious effort to acknowledge veterans’ contributions.

“I’m glad that the college recognizes the ways in which it is important for us as a community to recognize those who have given themselves in service to our country,” he said.

Touching on the message of his speech, Rankins said he had many positive experiences serving in the military and learned that everybody — regardless of his or her motive for enlisting — was important to the mission.

“There are so many people who join the military for so many different reasons that it is impossible for any one person to capture the motivating factors for all people for deciding to join the military,” he said.

Ray said the committee members are also excited to have students involved in the celebration preparations this year. IC Supports our Heroes, a new campus organization dedicated to assisting active and veteran soldiers, has been working closely with the committee to plan for the event. Its members will also be ushering at the ceremony and handing out programs.

Despite Obama’s troop withdrawal, Rankins said he does not believe the decision will affect enrollment in ROTC programs that often help students matriculate into the armed forces.

“I believe that ROTC programs will continue regardless of the withdrawal of troops, and there’s a need for ROTC programs,” he said. “I would be surprised to learn that the withdrawal of troops affected the program here.”

Rankins said he also hopes young people join ROTC not just because there is a war being fought now, but also because enlisted soldiers see service as an opportunity to support their country, or continue a family legacy. He said it is also important to remind civilians of the service that veterans performed during their days in the military.

“There are a number of veterans right here on campus that have given their time and, not just time, but made sacrifices that the general public often can’t appreciate, or doesn’t appreciate. It’s one of the small ways in which we as a community can just say thanks,” he said.

In previous years, veterans have spoken to attendees about their personal experiences serving in the military.

“One year we had someone speak who was really quite unforgettable who was a dog handler in Vietnam,” she said. “They would send the dogs out first to see if there was an enemy out there. It was really such an interesting talk that he gave.”

Donna Mosher, a committee member for past celebrations, said the event often strikes a nostalgic chord with many of the veterans.

“It has gotten quite emotional at times as they remember what they actually went through,” she said.

For more information on the celebration, visit https://www.ithaca.edu/veterans.