On Friday, North­eastern Uni­ver­sity hon­ored those who have served and pro­tected our country with its annual Vet­erans Day cer­e­mony. Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun led the North­eastern com­mu­nity in paying tribute to the nation’s men and women in uni­form, including alumni and cur­rent stu­dent vet­erans—many of whom were present in the audience.

Vet­erans Day here at North­eastern is a spe­cial day,” Pres­i­dent Aoun said at the cer­e­mony held at the university’s Vet­erans Memo­rial. More than 150 people attended the event on the brisk, breezy after­noon. “We thank, honor and sup­port those who serve our country, and we are proud to pay tribute to them at this memo­rial site in the heart of our campus.”

Gen­eral David D. McK­iernan, the retired former com­mander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan gave the keynote address. McK­iernan praised the bravery and ded­i­ca­tion of past, present and future vet­erans and remarked on Northeastern’s com­mit­ment to the mil­i­tary and to home­land secu­rity through research, sup­port and inno­va­tion.

He also lauded Northeastern’s sup­port for America’s vet­erans, and asked those in the audi­ence who have served or are cur­rently enlisted—along with their relatives—to stand and be rec­og­nized. A vet­eran of three wars him­self, McK­iernan said vet­erans must always be asso­ci­ated with words such as sac­ri­fice, duty, honor and courage.

It’s not enough to simply tell vet­erans, ‘thank you for your ser­vice.’ We as a nation owe much more to those who hon­or­ably served in both peace and war,” he said.

In tough national bud­getary times, McK­iernan also called on elected offi­cials in Wash­ington to pre­serve funding to pro­grams that sup­port vet­erans. “A vet­eran of mil­i­tary ser­vice is a better cit­izen. We owe them those resources,” he said.

Five years ago, North­eastern ded­i­cated its Vet­erans Memo­rial in the heart of campus, adja­cent to the Egan Research Center on Neal F. Finnegan Plaza. The memo­rial bears the names of those men and women from North­eastern who have given their lives for their country.

At Friday’s cer­e­mony, Pres­i­dent Aoun rec­og­nized Chairman Emer­itus Neal F. Finnegan, BA’61, H’98, along with other alumni who were instru­mental in the memorial’s con­struc­tion. On Friday, North­eastern also added the names of four Army vet­erans to the memo­rial: Brew­ster E. Lit­tle­field, ’18; Ruther­ford J. Welsh, ’68; Robert J. Kelly, ’67; and Thomas W. Knuckey, ’69.

Freedom, we under­stand, is not free,” Finnegan said. “North­eastern is a century-​​old com­mu­nity, and over the years we have paid a very dear price to sup­port our country in times of con­flict and war. That price is apparent in the large number of names on this memo­rial, and the voids those fallen sol­diers left in the lives of their fam­i­lies, their class­mates and the community.”

Pres­i­dent Aoun also noted the university’s mis­sion includes con­tributing to the nation’s safety, and that security—along with health and sustainability—is one of Northeastern’s top research themes. These efforts include the George J. Kostas Research Insti­tute for Home­land Secu­rity, a new facility located on Northeastern’s campus in Burlington, Mass., made pos­sible by a $12 mil­lion gift from alumnus and vet­eran George J. Kostas, E’43, H’07.

ROTC cadets laid wreaths at the memo­rial rep­re­senting each mil­i­tary con­flict involving the United States, and Pres­i­dent Aoun and McK­iernan together laid the final wreath. The 26th Infantry Divi­sion band also played the National Anthem and “America the Beautiful.”

Prior to the cer­e­mony, the North­eastern ROTC Alumni Society—joined by mem­bers of the Stu­dent Vet­erans Organization—held a remem­brance cer­e­mony of its own where all the names listed on Northeastern’s Vet­erans Memo­rial were read aloud.

Since 1950, the uni­ver­sity has hosted a ROTC pro­gram on campus, and at one time it was one of the largest com­pletely vol­un­teer ROTC units in the country with about 2,800 cadets enrolled.

Approx­i­mately 4,000 North­eastern alumni who enrolled in ROTC have been com­mis­sioned into the U.S. Army, and occa­sion­ally in other ser­vices. Alumni have also entered other Armed Forces branches through other chan­nels beyond ROTC.

The cur­rent ROTC for­ma­tion at North­eastern, an Army ROTC unit known as the Lib­erty Bat­talion, includes cadets from Boston Col­lege, Suf­folk Uni­ver­sity, Went­worth Insti­tute of Tech­nology and other local col­leges. It is the largest unit in New Eng­land, and is com­manded by Lt. Col. Gary Soldato, pro­fessor of mil­i­tary science.

North­eastern has a proud her­itage of sup­porting its country’s mil­i­tary,” Soldato said. “This memo­rial stands proud reminding stu­dents and fac­ulty today of the self­less ser­vice of all our past graduates.”