At its annual Vet­erans Day cer­e­mony, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity hon­ored all those who have served the United States in mil­i­tary ser­vice, and paid tribute to Capt. Eric A. Jones, BA’04, who died in October 2009 while serving combat mis­sions in Afghanistan.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 200, including U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun praised Northeastern’s long­standing com­mit­ment to foster strong rela­tion­ships with the mil­i­tary and vet­erans. Northeastern’s ROTC pro­gram began in 1951, and in the early 1960s was con­sid­ered the largest in the United States. Click here to see video from this year’s cer­e­mony.

Higher edu­ca­tion in the United States has an oblig­a­tion to play a role in con­tributing to the secu­rity of our nation,” Aoun said, high­lighting Northeastern’s emphasis on pio­neering research in security.

As one of the University’s top research themes— along with health and sustainability—security has been the focus of sev­eral defense and home­land security-​​focused efforts, including the Aware­ness and Local­iza­tion of Explosives-​​related Threats (ALERT) center and the George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity cur­rently being built on the Burlington campus.

Aoun spoke to the family of Capt. Jones, saying North­eastern would always remember him and honor his memory. Later, Aoun, joined by Brown, pre­sented the Jones family with mil­i­tary iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tags.

Eric is part of this family,” Aoun said. “What Eric did is some­thing we cherish and will never take for granted.”

For the cer­e­mony, Brown returned to the campus where he served as a member of Northeastern’s ROTC pro­gram while attending other local schools. He fondly recalled that expe­ri­ence as “an inte­gral part of my growing up, being part of the ROTC pro­gram at North­eastern University.”

The lead­er­ship skills that I received here have car­ried me on,” Brown said.

Eric Jones was a third-​​generation Husky, fol­lowing in the foot­steps of his father Ken­neth, ’70, and grand­fa­ther Alton, ’53. Capt. Alexander Cole, a close per­sonal friend of Jones, attended the cer­e­mony along with two fellow sol­diers. He recalled Jones’ devo­tion to serving the nation, pos­i­tive atti­tude, and reas­suring smile.

Eric gave his life in the defense of others,” Cole said. “Vet­erans Day is cer­tainly a fit­ting hol­iday to honor him.”

Four years ago, North­eastern ded­i­cated its Vet­erans Memo­rial in the heart of campus. The memo­rial bears the names of those men and women from North­eastern who have given their lives for their country.

Ser­vice to the nation is deeply embedded in North­eastern values,” Chairman Emer­itus Neal F. Finnegan, BA’61, Hon.’98, said today.

ROTC cadets laid wreaths at the memo­rial rep­re­senting mil­i­tary con­flicts involving the United States. The 26th Infantry Divi­sion band also played the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.”

The cur­rent ROTC for­ma­tion at North­eastern, known as Lib­erty Bat­talion, includes cadets from Boston Col­lege, Suf­folk Uni­ver­sity, Went­worth Insti­tute of Tech­nology, and other local col­leges. It is the largest ROTC pro­gram in Massachusetts.

This year, three Army ROTC cadets from Northeastern—seniors Jonathan Hickey, Robert Leedham, and Caitlyn McGowan—have been named Dis­tin­guished Mil­i­tary Grad­u­ates, pending suc­cessful com­ple­tion of their senior year, based on their schol­ar­ship, high moral char­acter, mil­i­tary apti­tude and lead­er­ship ability. They will be com­mis­sioned second lieu­tenants upon grad­u­a­tion and begin active duty.

Last year, North­eastern invested $2 mil­lion to help post-​​9/​11 vet­erans earn degrees through the Veteran’s Depart­ment Yellow Ribbon Program.