In commemoration of Veteran’s Day this past Tuesday, Wheaton College’s Army ROTC Rolling Thunder Battalion hosted the “Remembering Our Veterans” ceremony in Blanchard Hall. Currently under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Hoyman, the Rolling Thunder have been drilling at Wheaton College since their inception on June 20, 1952. In fact, from 1952 until 1969, participation in the ROTC program was required of all physically able freshmen and sophomore male students at Wheaton College. However, continuing on with the program through graduation for commissioning into the Army has always been voluntary.
Following the presentation of the colors by the Rolling Thunder color guard and an invocation delivered by second year masters student Bradley Byrd, Captain David Iglesias, USN, Ret. delivered the evening’s keynote address. Iglesias is a Wheaton graduate and recently retired after 30 years of distinguished service in the active and reserve components of the U.S. Navy. He currently serves as director of the Hastert Center in addition to being a professor of politics and law at Wheaton College.
Briefly reflecting on his own Naval career, Iglesias paid homage to the role that Wheaton students, both past and present, have played and will continue to play in service to America. Iglesias poignantly noted that Wheaton graduates have served in every major conflict since the American Civil War, calling special attention to those who paid the ultimate price for their country. In fact, the Memorial Student Center was built in memory of the over 1,600 Wheaton students and alumni who served in World War II and in honor of the 39 who gave their lives in battle. Those 39 are known as Wheaton’s Gold Star Sons and are memorialized to this day by a plaque in the Gold Star Chapel and by the Gold Star Banner in the Wheaton College Archives. Originally located in the MSC, the Gold Star Chapel was relocated to the Beamer Center in 2004.
Among Wheaton’s distinguished military veterans was Ensign William Lloyd ‘39, who was killed in action in World War II and had a U.S. Navy ship named after him, the USS Lloyd (DE-209). Two presidents of Wheaton College were veterans. President Edman served in WWI and President Armerding served as a line officer aboard the USS Wichita. Lieutenant Commander Armerding participated in 11 naval engagements, including the invasion of Okinawa. Many probably even know some current Wheaton veterans, including professor of political science Mark Amstutz, who retired from the Naval Reserve as a Commander. And as a former Staff Sergeant in the Army, athletics equipment manager Clarence Edward, affectionately known as C-Train on campus, served as the Wheaton College ROTC Rifle Team coach from 1979-82. According to C-Train, aside from Wheaton College, his favorite duty station was Italy.
Coming from a multi-generational military family, junior Cadet Sarah Runey shared her thoughts about what Veteran’s Day means to her: “To me, Veteran’s Day is a time to remember the sacrifices that soldiers, and especially my family members made who have served in the military … it is good to remember what they have done and the choices they have made and how that affects my freedom today.”
Throughout the ceremony, Captain Iglesias repeatedly acknowledged these great sacrifices and those who have voluntarily accepted the call to military service. He reflected on John 15:13, in which Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Iglesias said that the brave men and women of our Armed Services face the prospect of laying down their lives every day for the continuing freedom of America, and for this, we all owe them a debt of gratitude. So even though Veteran’s Day has passed, make a point this weekend to salute your favorite soldier, sailor, airman or marine and thank them for their service. And remember: All gave some, some gave all.