University News

Western New England University Honors Veterans in Our Community

Published: November 15, 2022 | Categories: All News
Attendee at Veteran's day event holding a sign in honor of a veteran

The Western New England University community joined together on Friday, November 11, to celebrate the courage and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans. The ceremony took place at 12:00 noon at the Gazebo on Deliso lawn and was coordinated by the College of Business Cohen Scholars with assistance from the Golden Bears Football team, Coach Jason LeBeau, and College of Business staff.

"As you take the time to learn about one another in our diverse community and all about the rich history that makes up Western New England University, it is likely you will find that there are many service families and heroes among us," said College of Business Dean Sharianne Walker opening the ceremony. "It is both appropriate, and indeed necessary, that we take time to salute and honor both those veterans we have lost and those who serve today among us."

Dean Walker honored three members of the Western New England Community who lost their lives serving our country with a moment of silent remembrance: College of Business students Lance Corporal Joey Letto, (U.S. Marines, age 21), Jason Lantieri (U.S. Army Airborne Division, age 24) and College of Arts & Science student Sergeant Alessandro Plutino, (U.S. Army Rangers, age 28). She then recognized the Cadets in attendance from both the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, who received a round of applause for their service from the crowd of over 50 in attendance.

The community was invited to publicly remember the life and legacy of a veteran or celebrate a loved one's unique military story by creating a personalized "Today I Honor…" card. Collecting and preserving the stories of veterans is a way of showing support and appreciation for all that veterans have done, and all that the military is still doing all over the world. More importantly, it acknowledges and remembers the many sacrifices made by others to gain the freedoms we enjoy here in America today.

WNE President Robert E. Johnson expressed his gratitude to all who took the time to attend the event. "I want to thank Dr. Sharianne Walker, Dean of the College of Business, for serving as the University's liaison to the ROTC programs and for facilitating today's event. Thanks to all of you who took time out of your day to attend this Veteran's Day ceremony," he said. "I want to give appreciation to the Army and ROTC programs that provide coursework and leadership, professional military training, and service opportunities for Western New England students. Most importantly, we all express gratitude to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces—past, present, and future—and their families, who we celebrate and honor for their service not just on Veteran's Day but on every day of the year."

Keynote speaker for the event, western Massachusetts ROTC Major Brian Alexander said, "One of the best aspects of this day is that it always falls on November 11th." The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 signified that the fighting stopped in World War I. The day was known as Armistice Day until 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation to rename it to Veteran's Day because he, and the nation, recognized that we needed to remember and distinguish those who paid the price for freedom across many wars not just one and to never forget the service to this nation.

Major Alexander is currently the Professor of Military Science and the Department Head at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This role makes him the Officer in Charge of the Reserve Officer Training Corps program for the entirety of western Massachusetts, including Western New England University, Springfield College and Westfield State University, teaching Senior Cadets. He has served combat missions in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and has earned numerous awards including the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service medal, Army Commendation medal, and the NATO medal. Major Alexander has served on continuous active duty for over 24 years, and has served in virtually every leadership position as he climbed the ranks of Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, and Commander.

"Unique to Veteran's Day is that it is not just a day of remembrance, although we will solemnly honor those who have fallen," added Alexander. "Today is also about celebrating members of the service who came home — the men and women who answered the call who are still in our lives, those that continue to serve and sacrifice every day. And today, we celebrate the families that share that sacrifice, who shoulder the burden while their service member is away and care for them upon their return. Our families serve as prominently as we do," said Alexander, acknowledging the sacrifice his own family has made for his service to the country.

The ceremony included the presentation of colors, and the laying of the wreath by Dr. Johnson and Major Alexander in salute of our fallen. College of Engineering freshman John Flannery played "Taps," the 24-note bugle call used to signify "the day's end" to soldiers.