University ROTC ceremony honors servicemen

By John McDermott

A small crowd gathered in the Armory field house bleachers at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday to view the 2008 Veteran’s Day ceremony conducted by the University’s Army ROTC.

Featuring guest speaker Mark Johnson, the University’s wrestling coach, the ceremony stressed the importance and valor of military duty.

Johnson, whose father served in the Navy in World War II, delivered a speech that hailed the military servicemen’s teamwork, leadership and ability to handle pressure.

“It humbles me to be here in front of you,” Johnson said. “I would never do this if I didn’t feel strongly about you people.”

Despite drawing similarities between wrestling and military service, Johnson, former Olympic wrestler and NCAA All-American, was quick to emphasize how trivial sports are when such a comparison is made.

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“I laugh when people talk about our athletes at the collegiate level and professional level as heroes,” he said.

It’s the servicemen that really make the difference he added.

“It’s fun, what I do makes a difference in young men’s lives,” he said. “What you people do and are about to do change the course of history.”

Johnson concluded his speech by reading a poem written by a Catholic priest who served in the military. The poem credited soldiers as the purveyors of freedom and justice.

“(Johnson’s speech) was inspirational and touching,” said Cadet Capt. David Miller, senior in Business. “He had a lot of personal experience to draw upon and think everyone here appreciated it.”

Following his speech, Lt. Col. Peter Im, professor of military science, awarded Johnson an Army Battalion medal as a token of appreciation.

“You recognize good leaders wherever you go. Whether you are wearing a uniform or out in your communities in civilian life,” Im said of Johnson.

According to Army tradition, Johnson is obligated to buy a soldier a beer every time he is found without the medal on him.

For event bugler Nick Loafman, junior in FAA, playing at a ROTC ceremony for the first time was a rewarding experience.

“It’s very moving,” Loafman said. “It’s obviously something that’s very important to these people and very important to a lot of a bugler this a little way that we can give back.”