BC veterans remembered at ceremony

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, a bell tolled 33 times, three sets of 11, to honor Boston College veterans and all veterans at a ceremony held at the university. A Veterans Day remembrance Mass was celebrated earlier in the day.

The tolling of the bells by Army ROTC Cadet J.J. Wellemeyer began the Veterans Day ceremony, during which the names of all the BC alumni who have served or are currently serving in the military were read aloud.

Fellow cadet and master of ceremonies Laura Sanchez welcomed the approximately 75 people in attendance.

"We thank every veteran today for answering the call to service with selflessness and honor," she said. "Veterans Day is your day -- for all of us to thank you. Thank you for the freedom and the security you have provided."

Guest speaker Father Daniel Sweeney, SJ, a chaplain for the U.S. Air Force Reserves, spoke of an Air Force motto “Service Before Self,” which he said reflected the sacrifices and dedication of veterans.

"A sense of service was true for the young men and young women in 1918 [the end of World War I] and it's true in 2003," he told the audience. "Some things remain the same -- that sense of service and duty and obligation of sacrifice remain the same -- the world, however, was much more simple in 1918."

As “horrific” as World War I was, he said, today’s military must deal with different challenges such as weapons of mass destruction and unconventional methods of fighting which make it difficult to distinguish combatants from non-combatants.

"In 2003, the world is a much more complicated place," stated Father Sweeney.

"We have to remember when we celebrate Armistice Day and Veterans Day today, there are American forces in combat positions even as we celebrate this ceremony," he continued.

Following his remarks, cadets read aloud the names of BC alumni who died during service in World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Candles were lit to commemorate the fallen of each war.

The names of BC alumni currently serving in the armed forces were also read aloud.

Father William McInnes, SJ, Alumni Association Chaplain, who celebrated the Veterans Day remembrance Mass, felt the candle lighting ceremony was an important way to honor all veterans and, in a special way, veterans from BC.

"These are the people we knew, who were educated here and got their values here," he explained. The remembrance ceremony is "a ritual of acknowledgment," because by saying the names of the alumni veterans and lighting a candle for them "we are not just talking about someone, we are remembering them."

D. Michael Ryan, associate dean of student development at BC, agreed. Ryan lit the candle remembering BC graduates who died during the Vietnam War.

"It's important for the BC community to remember individuals who graduated from here and those who went on to sacrifice for this country," said Ryan, who also oversees the college's ROTC program.

Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Vinny Sena lit the candle remembering those who lost their lives in World War II. Sena enjoyed participating alongside Army cadets, who represent future soldiers.

"It brings back a lot of memories and it's a wonderful feeling that, as time goes by, we continue to recognize those serving" this nation, he said.

For a young cadet about to graduate from the ROTC program, it was an honor to be in the company of a number of decorated war veterans.

"They represent those who have fought for us," said Sanchez. "It's always good to speak to a veteran because we're wearing the uniform today. We represent what they have done ... and they're proud of us."