ODU Observes Memorial Day
Justin L.C. Ross | Contributing Writer
When Memorial Day is pondered by the majority of Americans, one tends to think of the three-day weekend filled with summer fun. However, the real reason behind this holiday centers around the principles of reflection, remembrance and the traditional honoring of the fallen service members who gave their last full measure of devotion in service to the United States.
The campus of Old Dominion University also shares a proud tradition of hosting a variety of men and women who devote themselves to their country. This can be seen in the various ROTC programs for each branch of the service on campus.
In addition, a plaque with the names of those students who have fallen in combat are displayed at the base of the Federal, State, and University standards adjacent to Webb Center.
The foreign conflicts in which Monarchs served, spans from a time when ODU was the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary with the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam, and to the present day.
One such serviceman, who has shown great courage and devotion to his country, Justin Thomas. This veteran is currently a junior and is majoring in marketing. “I served as a Photographer’s Mate, which is now known as a Mass Communications Specialist in the United States Navy. I am proud to have served my nation when called upon to do so,” Thomas said.
The meaning of Memorial Day is of absolute importance to those who have served, as Thomas explained, “Memorial Day is a time to remember the ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ that made the ultimate sacrifice. And to remember that you’re still alive and to always improve.” Thomas goes on, “I can say for certain that I would have gladly taken the place of my dear friend, Robert McRill, who was serving in the Naval Special Warfare Group Two when he was killed. Since fate determined it was him rather than me… I will live my life to the fullest, thereby honoring his family, memory, and service.”
Thomas made the outstanding point that, “Every Monarch should know that every person in the Armed Forces is just like them; Black, white, gay, or straight. We’re people with families and aspirations.”
Another unfortunate aspect that is dealt with by those within the veteran community and their families is the, compared to civilians, high veteran suicide rate. Destiny Jarvis of the United States Navy, 21, Rate ABH rank E3, said, “Veteran suicide is often associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). There are numerous programs out there trying to spread awareness like save22. There are statistics stating that on average, 22 veterans a day commit suicide, most commonly because of PTSD.”
Jarvis goes continues, “Being in the Navy, a lot of sailors become depressed because we are constantly away from family, going through long and stressful deployments, etc. When you think about it, when a boat is on deployment which is typically six to seven months and we’re working 12 to 20 hour days, it adds up quickly.”
Another service member, Khalid Awad, serves in the Army National Guard as an E-4 Specialist, and is also an ODU senior with a major in International Studies. “One thing in particular that stands out is that everyone has each other’s back,” said Awad. “If you need help with something, someone is there to help.”
Expanding on this, Awad said, “I feel like we have a very diverse group of people in my unit, with people from all over Virginia with many different backgrounds. Being in the military hasn’t been so difficult as so many people think, as the military has been able to accommodate for my religious needs, but other people of different religions as well. For example, since I am Muslim my unit makes sure that there is a meal that I can eat so I do not eat pork. Also, they provide halal MRE meals for me when we go out to the field.”
These outstanding examples of the men and women who serve this country are reminders to the student body of the importance in remembering all those who have served, especially those who have fallen in the line of duty. As this summer holiday season unfolds, we should take the time for reflection and remembrance, for all those who answered the call to serve this nation.
As Lt. Col. John McCrae, who served in the British Expeditionary Force and was killed in action during the early stages of World War I, wrote in his now world-famous poem, “In Flander’s Field,”
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields