Kendra Baker – Staff Writer –
Despite the snowstorm that had started a few hours prior, approximately 40 people entered the Adanti Student Center Theater to honor and pay respect to veterans and to participate in an early celebration of Veterans Day.
Derek Torrellas, sophomore journalism major and Southern’s Veteran’s Club vice president, said although attendance was considerably less than expected, he and fellow Veteran’s Club members were satisfied with how the ceremony went overall.
“We would have held the event even if only one single person came,” said Torrellas, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for six and a half years prior to attending Southern.
The hour-long ceremony on Nov. 7 consisted of a 20-minute speech by a Vietnam War veteran, a 10-minute speech by an Iraq War veteran, a color guard ceremony, a moment of silence for the troops who have lost their lives, and a brief history about Veterans Day along with a video presentation of a Theodore Roosevelt speech.
The event was catered by by O’Toole’s, an Irish pub and restaurant in New Haven, with whom Bryan Townsend, freshman pre-nursing major and president of the Veteran’s Club, said the Veteran’s Club works with.
“O’Toole’s was a former recruiting depot so we [the Veteran’s Club] have been trying to combine forces with them to put on events for veterans,” said Townsend, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years.
The annual Veterans Day ceremony had always been organized and moderated by Jack Mordente, director of Veterans’ Services—until this year. With Mordente on medical leave for the year, Townsend, Torrellas, and the rest of the Veteran’s Club had to organize, plan, and host the ceremony on their own.
“I had never been actively involved in the Veterans Day ceremonies until this year,” said Joe Manion, senior liberal studies major and Veteran’s Club treasurer, who served in the U.S. Navy for four years. “This year, we [the Veteran’s Club] picked up the torch and ran with it, and this was the first year, that I know of, that we handled everything from start to finish—from organizing it to making it happen.”
Torrellas said near the end of September, Veteran’s Club members realized that they would have to set up the Veterans Day ceremony.
“It was a learn-as-we-go process to figure out things like what forms we needed, the different things we need to have scheduled to take place, and how to get people to come,” said Torrellas. “At our weekly meetings, we bounced ideas off each other, and a couple of us decided that we would wear our uniforms at the ceremony.”
Aside from uniform preparations, filling out the proper forms, and figuring out the basics of what the Veterans Day ceremony would entail, Veteran’s Club members also had to gather and prepare flags for the color guard portion of the ceremony, contact groups in order to get speakers, and find and reserve a location.
“We were actually a little bit late trying to get a location for the ceremony,” said Townsend, who added that the Student Support Services desk helped the Veteran’s Club to facilitate the location in the Student Center Theater. “Another club actually had the location reserved for the same time, but we spoke to them and explained our situation and they let us have the space, which was really nice of them.”
Torrellas said he and Veteran’s Club members tried promoting the ceremony with posters and emails in hopes of getting not only veterans to attend, but also people who normally aren’t involved with veteran-related events.
“The whole point of the ceremony was to raise awareness for veterans,” said Townsend. “A lot of people support the troops, but most people have never been exposed to war situations, and we [wanted] to give them a chance to actually [gain a better understanding] of what it’s like, while being able to pay tribute to and with a bunch of veterans.”