The Geneseo community was invited to a commemorative wreath-laying ceremony hosted by United University Professions in honor of Veterans Day on Wednesday Nov. 11.
The ceremony of reverence included the placement of a wreath—laced with red, white and blue flowers—under the flagpole at the Visitors Loop. The wreath donned a banner reading, “UUP Salutes Geneseo Veterans.” Select speakers shared personal sentiments and readings.
Attendance was comprised of various faculty and staff, students and members of the larger Geneseo community. “I was pleased with how many people showed up, I think there were more than usual,” primary speaker associate professor of history James Williams said.
Williams is a veteran himself. He served for a total of 26 years—from 1974–1976 on active duty and then in the Army Reserves until 2000. “I received nine medals for merit and retired as a lieutenant colonel,” he said. In addition to teaching in the Geneseo history department, Williams often plays an active role as a mentor within the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.
“Along with all my uncles and father who served in World War II, there is a long military tradition in my family going back to the [American Revolution],” Williams said. “A major meaning of Veterans Day for me is to indicate my solidarity with fellow veterans, but also to remember those people who were wounded in body, mind or spirit during their service and particularly those who did sacrifice their lives for the country.”
Williams mentioned two deceased former Geneseo students specifically in his thoughts: Ghanaian immigrant Cadet Joseph Glantey and Pakistani immigrant 1st Lt. Mohsin Naqvi. “Both of them were immigrants to the U.S. whose appreciation for the opportunity the nation offers led them to be willing to risk their lives for the country,” Williams said. “And both ultimately died in their duties.”
Sophomore Thomas Newman is participating in ROTC at Geneseo for the first time this semester. Enlisted in the Army National Guard since April 2014, he previously was on active duty status for several months. Veterans Day is not only significant to him because of his military involvement, but also because it hits close to home.
“To me, it’s a day of recognition,” Newman said. “My father is a veteran. It’s part of the reason I joined the Army—because my father was in the Army, too.”
Veterans Day provides a distinctive annual occasion to honor the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
“It’s an opportunity for people to remember those who were willing to work for the welfare of the country as a whole and sometimes sacrifice their lives on behalf of it,” Williams said.