By Seth Littrell
This Veteran’s Day, Eastern will participate in a nationwide event remembering members of the armed forces who have died in the War on Terror.
The National Roll Call, an event that 175 schools across the U.S. have agreed to participate in, consists of schools reading a list of names of soldiers who have died, totaling more than 6,000 as well as participating in a national minute of silence.
The event is based off a similar roll call that took place on Eastern’s campus last year.
“This began last year,” said Brett Morris, National Roll Call director and associate director of Veteran’s Affairs. “We did a roll call of soldiers that died in Afghanistan and Iraq…to basically remember the sacrifices they made, and when we finished that ceremony last year on Veteran’s Day, everybody was talking about what a moving experience it was.”
Morris said he went to Michael Reagle, associate vice president of Student Affairs, about trying to make the event national. Reagle gave his support, and Morris took the idea to a Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) conference where he suggested the idea and was placed in charge of implementing it.
“When you suggest things, then you have to follow through with them,” Morris said. “Since I brought up the idea with the veterans knowledge community, I keep the roster of schools, I’m the one that sends out the names for the roster of casualties. I’m the national coordinator as well as the one for Eastern.”
Eastern’s event is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. Nov. 11 at Powell Corner with the reading of soldiers’ names by volunteers. Morris said the event starts early so that the volunteers have enough time to read all the names before the minute of silence, since it has been nationally synchronized. The minute will be preceded by a Veteran’s Day ceremony at 1:30 p.m., which will include a rifle salute from the local VFW, “Taps” that will be played by members of Eastern’s band and the playing of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes by an Eastern graduate.
“It will be a very moving ceremony, along with just the reading of the names,” Morris said.
Morris said the names have special significance, which is why they are all being read at the event.
“Some people have said, ‘Why are you reading all the names?'” Morris said. “Well, you know…The name is what you are given when you are born. I mean, that’s who you are, and when you join the military, you’re given a rank, and so we’re going to read their rank, indicating which service they’re in and what position they achieved within that service, and their name, which is essentially who they are. I think the reading of the individual names says, ‘You are important.’ Not you the collective 6,305, but you the individual. We haven’t forgotten you.”
Morris said the event took about six months of work to put together, but added that now that the planning is all in place, it shouldn’t be difficult to do annually, which is something he would like to see in the future.