ROTC honor veterans with ceremony

University ROTC honored veterans at the Armory track Sunday afternoon for Veterans Day with a 21-gun salute, a wreath bearing and a moment dedicated to veterans in attendance.

ROTC students faced the crowd on the opposite side of the track — Army in camouflage, Navy in black, Air Force in blue and a small group holding salute guns stood in precise positions behind the podium at the edge of the track.  

The student military personnel systematically walked into position and sang each branch’s song. The methodical practice that went into their preparation was clear. For a week, each branch had 6 a.m. practice to prepare for the ceremony.

“We’re all sleep deprived,” said Baxter Reed, an Air Force ROTC member and senior at the University.

For the ROTC members who will enter the service after graduation, the age difference between themselves and some of the veterans does not matter. They simply see people who have gone through an experience that they will share very soon.  

“It’s like the changing of the guard,” Baxter said.  “We’re looking ahead, and they’re looking behind. At the same time we’re all trying to figure out how to serve this nation as best as we can. We have so much honor and respect to show them that we thank them every day — not just Veterans Day — for what they did and what we’re planning to do.”

Baxter recently found out that he would be a pilot after he graduates, a position he has always wanted. 

“It’s always been a childhood dream to fly planes,” he said.

Joining the Navy was in Kelly Lorentson’s blood. Her father, who has watched her take part in the annual ceremony for the past three years, was also in the Navy, as was her grandfather and several of her uncles and cousins.

Honoring her father, who served the Navy for 30 years — the maximum duration he could — and was sent to England following 9/11, was important to her. 

“It means a lot,” said Lorentson, a senior at the University. “My dad was here today, and he loves it. He went through ROTC and remembers being where I’m at. So it’s exciting for him, and it’s exciting for me too, being able to do that for him.” 

And while her father listened to guest speaker Allan Stratman’s voice echo off the banner-clad walls and the massive arch overhead, he felt proud that his daughter would keep the family tradition going.

“For me, it’s tremendous pride seeing my daughter following in the Navy footsteps that I was in,” said Adrian Lorentson, Kelly’s father. “(My father) was also a Navy captain, retired. He went in during World War II, so it’s a Navy family now, and I’m very proud of that.”

Adrian was one of the veterans who stood up as everyone else in attendance set off in applause. Still, he feels that serving in the Navy has done so much for him that when people thank him for what he has done, he is a bit off-kilter. He appreciates everything the Navy offered him. 

“It was the best time,” he said. 

Though Adrian may be older than the students in the ROTC program and younger than many of the other veterans who might have served in Vietnam, he can still relate to all of them.

Baxter said meeting a veteran for the first time feels more like meeting someone he’s already friends with — a feeling that will never go away, something military personnel can agree on.

“There’s a camaraderie amongst all the services and there’s something you will never lose once you’re in the military. That camaraderie follows you for the rest of your life,” Adrian said. “There’s a special connection between you and another service member that nothing will ever take that away from you.”

Stanton can be reached at [email protected]