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Harrington Calls For Better Support Of Returning Troops

For The Heights

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

vets

Alex Gaynor / Heights Staff

A crowd of nearly 200 men and women, many in military attire, gathered on the Burns Library lawn the morning of Monday, Nov. 12 for the 12th annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony. Veterans of various wars as well as students in the Army ROTC program gathered near the University’s veteran’s memorial to honor the nation’s fallen.

Although the day was sunny, the atmosphere at the event was grim as attendees maintained upright postures and spoke in generally hushed tones. As the bells tolled for 11 a.m., the gravity of the ceremony was highlighted by a designated moment of silence in honor of all those who served their country.

After an opening by Cadet Kathryne Bauchspies, A&S ’13, the featured speaker, Lieutenant Colonel George J. Harrington, BC ’80, brought some warmth into the day with a succinct yet eloquent speech. Harrington is the recipient of a Bronze Star Medal and has been deployed to Bosnia, Guantanamo, and Afghanistan, but chose to speak little of his own experiences.

Instead, Harrington called attention to “a different group of warriors, those currently serving, who came from all over the country and from many different socioeconomic backgrounds.”

“What brings them together is that 100 percent of them joined the armed forces, reenlisted, and stayed on duty during a time of war,” he said. He praised their strength and noted the bleak realities of their return.

Harrington described an environment that was hardly reminiscent of a hero’s welcome, including a record 9.7 percent unemployment rate for post Sept. 11 veterans—19.9 percent for females.

Although the Department of Defense, the Obama Administration, and companies such as JP Morgan have taken measures toward helping veterans return to civilian life, Harrington said that these efforts are not enough.

As a successful executive at MetLife, Harrington himself does not need the assistance that he calls for. It was not self-interest that prompted him to extol the merits of the veteran in the workplace. “The experience builds a commitment to excellence,” he said. “Veterans are creative, resilient, and determined.”

He proposed many ways those at home could aid their transition, including “helping translate those qualities into language that civilian hiring managers could understand.”

Finally, Harrington described the “point man,” a product of the tactic of “always using the smallest possible force to face the enemy.”

“Somewhere in the world, right now, American sons and daughters are on point, in harm’s way,” Harrington said. “They depend on the soldiers on the left and right to cover their flanks, but they should also be able to count on those back home to cover their backs.”

As if a reminder of the devastating consequences of being in harm’s way, two cadets proceeded with a symbolic roll call for 209 Boston College alumni who never returned home from their service in the World Wars, Vietnam, Korea, or the Iraq War. For each conflict, a veteran rose to “stand for those who gave their lives.”

Attendees were invited to view the Veterans Memorial, a 68-foot -long low granite wall featuring the names of those deceased.

The ceremony closed with the playing of “Taps” and the singing of “America the Beautiful.”

Bringing together several generations of current and future veterans, the event served to strengthen their connection and ensure that their legacy will be preserved far into the future.

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