Jean Chisser, associate director of Boston College’s Alumni Affinity Programs, said that there is a military maxim that says people die twice—once when they take their last breath and the last time their name is spoken aloud.
On Thursday morning, BC alumni and families gathered for BC’s 21st Annual Veterans Mass and Remembrance Ceremony, held each year on Veterans Day to honor alumni who have died in the line of duty.
Under a sprawling white tent on John J. Burns Library lawn on Thursday, BC ROTC cadets read aloud the names of every alum who has died while serving in the U.S. military since World War I.
“I think the important part of that is remembering people’s names, and seeing their names, helps keep them alive,” Chisser said. “It’s in our hearts and in our thoughts.”
The tradition holds, according to Chisser, that after reading the names from each war, the cadets ask “Who will stand and answer for the fallen?” followed by a BC veteran responding with, “I will answer for all those who gave their lives,” and lighting a candle.
The names are also etched on the BC Veterans Memorial, a 70-foot-long wall that borders the Burns Library lawn. The list includes veterans from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
“Right now there are 211 names on the wall,” Chisser said. “It was intended to bring the veteran community together and to honor, always honor, and recognize those who paid the ultimate price.”
The Annual Veterans Mass and Remembrance Ceremony is a tradition that began 21 years ago after a group of BC alumni wanted to create an opportunity to honor former BC students who died in battle, Chisser said. The group also fundraised for the building of the BC Veterans Memorial.
“There was nothing on campus at the time, so there was a group of people who formed a committee in conjunction with the University,” Chisser said. “They raised $500,000 to have this wall built and came up with the criteria of how your name would get on the wall.”
Preceding the ceremony, Rev. John Monahan, S.J. celebrated mass in St. Mary’s Chapel with featured preaching by Rev. Paul McNellis S.J., both of whom are veterans.
“We try to make it so that it is by and for veterans,” Chisser said.
The ceremony featured guest speaker Raymond E. Berube, who graduated cum laude from BC in 1978 and retired from the U.S. Navy Supply Corps in 2011 after 33 years of service.
Berube spoke about the unique life lessons he learned throughout his BC education and assignments as Navy captain. He also encouraged attendees to speak with veterans who were at the ceremony.
“If you have the opportunity to speak to the BC veterans here today, one on one, you will hear the shared pride that they feel in having provided service to our nation and being part of something bigger than themselves,” Berube said during the ceremony. “While there are many common aspects to a military career and military service, there are also many unique aspects for each veteran.”
Veterans Ed Rae and Tom Quirk, both BC ’53, said they have attended the event for many years and praised the quality of the commemoration.
“So well organized, so well put together, rehearsed, and someone gave a lot of thought,” Rae said. “[BC] deserve[s] the accolades.”
This year, a new name was added to the memorial wall: 1st Lt. Thomas Redgate, BC ’48, who was missing in action for 71 years after the 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.
Redgate’s family was notified this year that Redgate’s remains had been identified among 55 boxes of remains that were turned over by North Korea in June 2018. Redgate’s name was added to the BC Veterans Memorial two weeks ago.
“We feel it’s an honor to be able to welcome him back, not only to his family, but for us, to the BC community, to the BC family,” Chisser said. “And we will always remember his name now. To me, that’s really special.”
Some of Redgate’s family members were in attendance at the ceremony, including Marriane Beach, Redgate’s niece, who said it was her first time attending the annual commemoration. Beach’s family was unable to bury Redgate until this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re very honored to be in this group,” Beach said. “It’s the right thing for my uncle after 70 years to be honored by Boston College.”
During his address, Berube emphasized the harsh conditions that Redgate endured in his final battle in December of 1950.
“The soldiers, Marines, and British commandos spent weeks fighting some of the harshest weather conditions on the planet, as they experienced temperatures of 36 degrees below zero,” Berube said. “Frostbite was commonplace in 10,495 American and allied casualties.”
Berube honored the ultimate sacrifice Redgate made for his country.
“Nemo Resideo is a phrase as old as warfare itself,” Berube said. “It means leave no one behind. Redgate has never been forgotten by friends and family.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor