Two days before Veteran’s Day, CSU’s Air Force ROTC dined in Spring Canyon Park on free Chick-Fil-A sandwiches while listening to Scottish bagpipes and enjoying unexpectedly warm weather.
The ceremony, hosted by the nonprofit Veterans Plaza Organization, featured a keynote speech from Bronze Star and Purple heart recipient, Colonel Timothy Fritz of the United States Army. Mayor Karen Weitkunat and local veterans celebrated alongside the ROTC cadets.
Over 200 student cadets stood in formation with nearly locked knees for over 45 minutes, going from the position of attention to parade rest as they listened and waited patiently to several speakers.
3rd year ROTC Air Force senior, Jordan Cruz made sure none of the Cadets with locked knees passed out.
“This is the second year we’re doing it,” Cruz said. “I’m the safety officer, so just incase anybody falls or collapses like last year I’ll make sure that they are all right.”
Before the keynote speaker, the Vice President of the Veterans Plaza, Dr. Rob Allerheiligen, stood to speak to the cadets about dirt.
A part of the plaza is a garden that Allerheiligen calls “The Victory Garden.” The Garden is filled with soils from 115 different battlefields, cemeteries and institutions where US service have served and sacrificed. Dirt from Gettysburg, Normandy, Iwojima and Afghanistan are just a few of the battles represented.
“Today we add to the mix the battles of Saratoga from the Revolutionary War and lastly dirt from Camp Hale Colorado,” Allerheiligen said.
Fritz was the keynote speaker for the event. In his Army dress uniform, with aviators and a stack of ribbons, he addressed the student cadets directly.
“There’s one thing I could say and that’s our nation is in good hands,” Fritz said. “What I’ve seen from serving around the world is that this is one of the greatest generations to ever serve our country.”
Veterans such as Fritz have knowledge to pass on to the younger generation such as sophomore Cadet Staci Bergman. Bergman’s been in CSU’s Air Force ROTC program for just a year and a half.
“I’m not commissioned yet, I’m just a sophomore, but I think it’s good, because my grandpa was in the Army Air Corps and then my dad was in Vietnam in the Army,” Bergman said.
Colonel Fritz closed with a story and two poems. The story, a war story, was about a small female Navy Corpsman who while on tour in Kandahar Afghanistan, replaced a former Corpsman.
During an ambush, the female corpsman was one of three who survived the attack and was able to adequately react to the situation despite her size and experience.
According to Fritz, the story reflects how every person no matter how small or big can make a difference in the nation’s military, which is what he says Veterans Day is all about.
“Only 12 percent of the United States population are veterans,” Fritz said. “We’re here to honor all those who took the time out to serve.”
Collegian Reporter Scott Fromberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.