Spartans honor America’s veterans and service members

11-11-2009

This week Americans observe Veterans Day with an unusual level of solemnity. The veterans of the Great War have passed from our annual ceremonies, replaced now by warriors from more current conflicts and daily reminders of the human cost of our liberty.

We’re proud of our campus Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, and those currently serving that walk among us in the near-certain knowledge that soon they will walk on far less welcoming soil. As we dedicate our Spartan community to engagement with the people and problems of today, we salute those whose engagement is already sealed with their oaths.

War has had great impact on Michigan State through the years. Some of us recall the days of the Quonset hut village on the west side of campus that was erected to accommodate legions of GI Bill veterans attending college after World War II. And we too were afflicted when the Vietnam conflict divided generations in sometimes violent domestic strife.

It is to this nation’s most bloody conflict, however, that we trace a share of our own heritage. A stalled drive to establish agricultural colleges throughout the country was bolstered in 1861 when a clause was inserted calling for teaching of military tactics––and by the secession of some states that had earlier not supported it.

Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law July 2, 1862, granting federal land to states to establish colleges to teach agriculture and engineering. Fledgling Michigan State was first in the ranks.

Today we carry no small amount of the dedication of the veteran in our own Spartan spirit. We, too, are about engagement and service over self, and as I’ve written in this space before, we too are called to carry our shields to the front line.

On Veterans Day, and every day, we honor those who served and those who are still in uniform––be they on duty along the banks of the Euphrates or preparing for their future along the banks of the Red Cedar.

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