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BC Honors Alumni at 22nd Annual Veterans Mass and Remembrance Ceremony

Retired Col. April Skou emphasized the importance of legacy and the necessity of interpersonal connections in the military during her keynote speech at the 22nd Annual Boston College Veterans Mass and Remembrance Ceremony on Friday morning.

“Initially, I thought ‘Okay, I’ll talk about legacy—this idea of responsibility of leaving a legacy on those with whom we serve,’” Skou, BC ’96, said. “And then, as I continued to reflect and sort of toss ideas around in my mind, another idea began to develop. That was this idea of the connections that bind veterans, that bind service members.”

The event, organized by the BC Veterans Alumni Network, started with mass in St. Mary’s Chapel at 9 a.m. and finished with a ceremony outside of Bapst at 11 a.m.

In her talk, Skou explained how she began her military career at BC’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.

“I found a stack of glossy brochures that talked about ROTC as a way to pay for school,” she said. “They said nice-dressed uniforms. They showed all these social events. They said
‘Pay for school, get $100 a month, and have a job after college.’”

When she arrived at BC, Skou said she was surprised by the amount of work and commitment the ROTC program required.

“I started to learn how to low-crawl,” she said. “I learned about the phonetic alphabet, how to use a Claymore mine, and other tactical skills that were completely foreign to me and my way of life. I kept thinking, ‘That brochure, the dress uniform, the social events. This isn’t what was in the brochure.’”

Despite her initial disillusionment, Skou recalled a memory of returning home from a particularly grueling training day at Fort Devens that she said gave her a stronger appreciation for ROTC.

“We were tired and dirty,” she said. “Something in me sort of felt different. I started to feel and sense that I was connected to everybody else on the bus. We were connected through hardship we had just experienced.”

After graduating from BC, Skou said she departed for military training in Arizona but was soon deployed into the U.S. Army. By 2002, Skou said she was serving as a company commander, conducting reconnaissance missions in Korea.

“It was there that I started to really see the responsibility of leading soldiers and what it commands,” Skou said.

Skou then elaborated on the difficulty of having people depend on her leadership.

“My army journey continued, taking me to Iraq and later to Afghanistan,” she said. “In each of these deployments, I wanted to run just as I had when I was a freshman. I wanted to bury my head in the sand and refuse to deploy. I couldn’t—people to my left and my right were depending on me. We were in this together.”

Skou also memorialized fallen soldier and fellow ROTC cadet David Connolly, BC ʼ94, whose name she said is engraved on the University’s Veterans Memorial Wall for his sacrifice in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

“For those whose names are on the wall, including Dave Connolly … we recognize that we are our brother’s keeper and we have a duty to honor them,” she said. “The legacy they left is in the world we see today. The freedom we enjoy and the freedom and joy in many places around the world.”

Following the keynote address, the ceremony continued with a “remembrance of fallen,” in which the names of all BC alumni who were killed in action following WWI were read aloud while an accompanying image of them was displayed on a television screen to the side.

“It is said that a person dies twice,” Ahura Shadfur, a ROTC member and MCAS ’24, said. “Once when they take their final breath and later the last time their name is spoken. Today, we speak the names of our fallen brothers and keep them alive in our hearts.”

The ceremony ended with a flag procession and a closing prayer by Maj. Rev. James Hairston, BC ʼ04.

Among the final speakers, Mike Dunford, a retired Marine Corps Reserve officer BC ʼ82, emphasized the importance of BC’s commitment to remembering and honoring fallen alumni.

“We commit, here at Boston College, to do this annually and to always remember the sacrifice and heroism of the now 212 men whose names are inscribed on this wall,” Dunford said.

November 13, 2022
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