It was just before 11 a.m. on Friday, November 11, 2016, as the rustle and bustle of students and faculty moving from class to class just about came to a halt outside, near the clock tower.
Music played in the background as attendees of the Veterans Day Ceremony gathered around to observe. With almost 100 guests, the seats were filled, and remaining people stood in the surrounding area.
Hosted by the Military and Veterans Club, the ceremony was an event to honor those who have served for the United States.
Master of Ceremonies, U.S. Marine Corp. member and Kean University student, Elio Bustamante began the ceremony by providing an introduction.
U.S. Air Force member and Kean University student, Darin Smith sung Amazing Grace to set the mood. The Presentation of Colors was performed by the Seton Hall ROTC.
An invocation by Jackie Oesmann-Kruk, Catholic Campus Minister, left the crowd silent as the only noise was the wind rustling the leaves and blowing through the American Flag waving above.
The Pledge of Allegiance was done by the Seton Hall ROTC and the national anthem was sang by Smith.
President of the Military and Veterans Club, Kean University student and U.S. Army member, Kimmarah Casey gave a welcoming address.
Following a moment of silence, Emily Cubilete, president of Student Organization (the full-time undergraduate student government) gave her remarks. She thanked service members and their families for their dedication.
Perhaps the most emotional and captivating part of the ceremony was when retired Colonel, USAR member and graduate student in the doctoral program, Domenick A. Garzone provided reflections of his 33 years of military service. He emphasized how Veterans Day is about honoring and respecting veterans.
He began with the quote, "All gave some, some gave all."
In the quote, "some gave all" describes Memorial Day observing those who lost their lives, and "all gave some" describes Veterans Day honoring all living members and veterans from every branch.
He used the following quote, from an unknown author, to describe veterans: "A Veteran is someone who, at one point, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America' for an amount of 'up to and including their life.'"
Guests could hear the emotion in Garzone's voice as he finished reciting the quote. The simple quote captures the sacrifice any individual serving for the United States has to make.
He went on to talk about the history of Veterans Day and American involvement in wars throughout history.
Armistice Day marked the end of World War II hostility. The end of the war is celebrated on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Woodrow Wilson declared this at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919.
In 1954, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in order to create awareness for veterans of all wars and all branches of the armed forces.
Garzone went on talk about the striking statistics of twentieth century wars America was involved in, including the number of deaths and those wounded in each war.
Currently, Americans are serving for the United States in over 70 countries, and there are three wars that the United States is involved in.
Garzone shared ways that individuals can honor a veteran:
- Shaking hands and thanking them
- Visiting a VA (veterans affairs) hospital
- Buying someone who is homeless a cup of coffee
- Attending Veterans Day Ceremonies
He also encouraged everyone to hug and cherish their family members, and remind each other that they can do this because of veterans and all that they do for this country.
Today, veterans face unemployment, homelessness and physical and mental illness. He also shared a powerful statistic: an average of 20 veterans a day commits suicide.
He closed by referring back to the quote regarding the writing of a blank check to the United States. The power of this quote was evident, as he was very emotional when referring to the fact that the amount on this check can be up to and even include a service member's life.
Overall, Garzone's speech was very rich in culture and history, and informative and emotional. The pride he has in being a service member was very evident throughout his speech.
Following Garzone's speech was commentary by Dr. Thomas Walsh, an assistant professor for middle and secondary education at Kean University and a retired U.S. Navy veteran.
Next, the placing of wreaths was performed by four Kean University students, three of which represented the U.S. Army and one represented the U.S. Navy.
Seton Hall ROTC lowered the flag and then Taps was performed by Kean University student Domenick Guarnaccia. All was silent throughout the playing of Taps.
Smith took the microphone one last time as he sang God Bless America.
Next, a benediction by Pastor Tami Christian from New Beginnings Ministries was given.
Seton Hall ROTC made its final appearance with the retiring of the colors.
Vivian Cabanas, a Kean University student and vice president of the Military and Veterans Club, who represents the U.S. Army, gave a final thank you to everyone for their attendance and presented gifts to Garzone.
The ceremony was full of passion and American pride. Each speaker spoke from personal experience and really emphasized the importance of not only celebrating Veterans Day, but thanking veterans on a daily basis for their continued dedication to the freedom of this country.