On Nov. 11, Eastern Connecticut State University held its annual Veterans Day Ceremony in the Student Center at 9 a.m. The ceremony was led by Eastern’s Veterans Center Coordinator Lawrence Schmitz and included remarks by university administrators as well as Captain Carl A. Lahti of the U.S. Navy, who gave the keynote address.
Preceding the presentation of colors and the National Anthem, Father Laurence LaPointe opened with reflections. “We may have different religious views and philosophical perspectives, but today we are united in gratitude,” he said. Contributing to the welcoming statements, Kenneth Bendini, vice president for student affairs, said, “We continue to make strides with all students, and in particular with students who are veterans,” he said, pointing out the work of the VETS (Veterans Education and Transition Services) Center. Because of the center’s recent expansion of space and services, Eastern was named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top eight public regional universities serving veterans in the North.
President Elsa Núñez, whose father and brother served in the U.S. military as citizens of Puerto Rico, said, “While we should not glorify the work that our brave men and women in the armed forces perform in battle, we should hold up their bravery and sacrifice as a symbol of America’s finest values,” she said. “We should do this not just on this date each year, but every day of the year.”
Captain Lahti, the ceremony’s distinguished guest, followed with remarks on the sacrifices of servicemen and women and how the armed forces are poised and ready at this very moment to protect our country. Captain Lahti is the current commanding officer of Naval Submarine Base New London. A native of Buffalo, NY, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1989 with a degree in systems engineering, and has served on and commanded numerous sea tours.
“The numbers are telling. Since our nation’s founding, some 48 million men and women, have donned the uniform and proudly stepped forward to defend our freedoms,” he said. “Today, there are nearly 22 million living veterans.”
Lahti spoke of remembrance and legacy — the essence of Veterans Day. “Over the next 30 years, the number of veterans is projected to decline to less than 15 million,” he said. “As the number of veterans decreases, so does our attachment to their legacy, so it’s important we pay tribute.”
Currently deployed at home and around the globe are almost 1.4 million service members in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. “They are there now. They will be there when we are sleeping tonight. They will be there every Saturday, Sunday and every holiday this year,” said Lahti. “They are there around the clock, far from our shores, defending America at all times.”
Being with the Navy throughout his military career, Lahti highlighted the tactical benefits of operating from the sea. “Today’s Navy operates on the sea in ships, under the sea in submarines and over the sea in aircraft like those on aircraft carriers. This ability to operate from the sea is extremely important,” said Lahti. “It gives the Navy the power to protect America and our interests — anywhere, anytime.”
“I have the privilege and pleasure of serving at the submarine base with some 6,500 of America’s finest young men and women. Some of them even take classes at this wonderful university,” said Lahti. “I am proud to be counted among our Nation’s veterans; it has been and continues to be my honor to serve,” he concluded.