At Veterans Day Ceremony, Future Soldiers Pay Tribute to Past
Providence, R.I.--Providence College honored past and present veterans and saluted soldiers of the future during its annual Veterans Day Ceremony at the War Memorial Grotto on campus.
The keynote speaker for the event, which was sponsored by the Department of Military Science and the Patriot Battalion, was Lt. Col. Ellis Hopkins ’01G Army ROTC of the Rhode Island Army National Guard, a former assistant professor of military science at PC.
Hopkins said the College and the Patriot Battalion have produced leaders from the “famed Greatest Generation to the present,” citing two examples: Dr. Malcolm Ekstrand ’11Hon, who served during World War II, and Capt. William Cromie ’05, who served in Afghanistan.
“Both of these heroes faced the dangers of combat with the faith and reason inculcated right here on this campus while choosing to serve a cause greater than themselves,” said Hopkins.
Ekstrand was among the almost 400 PC students who trained with the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) during World War II and was called to active duty in March 1944. Ekstrand participated in the Battle of the Bulge, was wounded, and was taken prisoner in Germany, Hopkins noted.
None of the ASTP students was able to return to college to complete studies, but the College awarded each of them an honorary bachelor’s degree at commencement in May. In August, Ekstrand, a retired podiatrist, received his diploma from College President Brian J. Shanley, O.P. ’80, in a ceremony at the retirement home in Cranston, R.I., where he resides.
“More recently, in July 2008, Capt. William Cromie, Providence College Class of 2005, was awarded the Silver Star--our nation’s third-highest award for combat action--for his leadership and valor during an ambush in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade,” said Hopkins.
Hopkins, who served in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, said that during the past 10 years--since 9/11--PC and the Patriot Battalion have “produced leaders for an army that has proven itself in some of the most challenging environments our military has ever faced.”
“Just as they transformed themselves from students to leaders, they have transformed our army into the most versatile and rapidly deployable strategic land force the world has ever known,” Hopkins said. “We should recognize that our democracy depends on the willingness of these superb men and women to step forward and to serve, to dedicate themselves to a greater cause, the cause of protecting our democracy.”
Ten cadets take Army oath
During the ceremony, 10 students from PC, Bryant University, Rhode Island College, and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth became contracted Army cadets by taking an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution.
PC students taking part were Kevin Donovan ’15 (Whitman, Mass.), Michael Dwyer ’15 (West Hartford, Conn.), Connor Lewis ’15 (Farmingdale, N.Y.), Justin B. MacArthur ’13 (Guilford, Conn.), and Michael A. Tagliafierro ’13 (Kingston, N.Y.).
In his remarks, Tagliafierro noted the unique aspect of the Veterans Day ceremony, with “the future of the U.S. Army paying tribute to its past.”
“Veterans Day is just one day,” said Tagliafierro. “We will spend today remembering, but tomorrow we will wake up and live our lives by the standards of those who came before us.”
Father Shanley noted that the ceremony took place in the shadow of the War Memorial Grotto, “a place that is sacred at PC.” Father Shanley pointed out that the grotto was dedicated in 1948 in the presence of students who were themselves veterans, and who included Father Shanley’s father, Joseph V. Shanley ’49, who served in the Army Air Corps.
In his invocation, Father Shanley asked for prayers for those who died in service to the nation, for those now serving, for the country, and for peace, to one day fulfill the words of the prophet Isaiah--“nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Major James J. Tuite, professor of military science and commander of the Patriot Battalion, also spoke at the program. Rev. Iriarte Andújar, O.P., assistant dean of admission and Patriot Battalion chaplain, offered the benediction.