John Carroll University celebrated its first Military Appreciation Day for veterans and those who have sacrificed for the safety of our nation. Sophomore Nicholas Reis came up with the idea for this day when he was applying to Carroll two years ago.
“My grandfather was in the army in World War II and [I wanted] to honor him and others who serve,” said Reis. “I thought JCU could take off with it more.”
Many of the schools he considered attending had military appreciation days, so when he decided to come to JCU, he was interested in bringing that type of program to campus. The prompt for his application essay for John Carroll was to write about what he could make a difference in. He decided to write about having a military day on campus.
Reis brought the idea to the John Carroll Military Veterans Association in January of 2016 and the Veteran Liaison for John Carroll, junior Jaymes Poling, supported his efforts. “We loved the opportunity to make veterans in the community feel appreciated,” said Poling.
The idea was then brought to the ROTC program, who also worked in conjunction with Jane Evans, the assistant athletic director for external operations, to make the idea a reality.
The JCU Veterans Association, JCU Veterans Affairs Office, Evans and the ROTC collaborated to plan the day. “Working together is vital,” said ROTC Cadet Tipton Woodard. “We brainstormed how to have the most fun and bring attention to the veterans.”
Over the summer, Second Lieutenant and gold bar recruiter for the ROTC, Mason Morrow, held the planning position and acted as a liaison. “No thank you can ever come close to the sacrifice the veterans and their families made.” said Morrow.
The Military Appreciation Day took place on Saturday, Sept. 24 at the home football game where JCU was playing against Heidelberg University.
It began with the Veterans Association setting up a tent on the tennis courts during the tail gate. There they hosted a cookout with hamburgers and hotdogs and conversed with other tailgaters.
Senior Ethan McElwee, who served in the Marine Corp said, “Military Appreciation Day is important for the people who came before me and set the precedent. They established what it was to be a veteran and to be a part of that tradition.”
“It helps shine a light on those who have sacrificed for their community and their family,” said senior veteran of the U.S. Navy, Brandon Grant. “As a veteran, you don’t have an appreciation for it until you have been in and out [of service]. It’s hard to adjust to life after getting out, [but] to see the appreciation for what veterans give up is a good feeling,” he said.
Poling said, “We’ve done a good job as a nation of supporting our troops. Sometimes I feel we receive too much for what we’ve done.” Poling served in the Army infantry in the 82nd airborne division.
The day continued with veterans and ROTC members being present throughout the game. Flags were handed to spectators as they entered the gate to Don Shula Stadium.
Cadets stood at an informational table where they promoted the Mountain Man Memorial March, where ROTC members run a marathon, a half marathon or a 10K in honor of soldiers who have died in combat as well as their families, who are known as gold star families.
“I thought the day went very well. I feel as though we educated the people about Mountain Man Memorial March and continued to improve our relationship with the campus community,” said senior Cadet Connor Lynch.
They also promoted the Global War on Terror Memorial, which is to provide the organizing and fundraising efforts to build a memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to honor fallen soldiers, U.S. services members, their families and those who supported the nation’s longest war.
“Our veterans group wanted to provide social support. We recognize that we no longer resemble what the civilian population considers the military. So, we expressed a desire to stand behind the face of our own ROTC program,” said Poling.
ROTC members and veterans helped form a tunnel for the football team before the start of the game. At halftime, veterans and cadets along with the Carroll Crazies, invited fans to join them in the end zone for a push-up competition. Participants did a push-up for every point that John Carroll had scored, which at halftime was 21.
During the game, Cadets Woodard and Michael Schmitz led cheers as Cadets did push-ups for the total points on the scoreboard every time Carroll scored. They ended the game with 42 points and Cadets ended up doing a total of 144 push-ups.
The groups involved received positive feedback and they are looking to work with Evans to make it even bigger and better next year.
“Since we are a Jesuit University, I feel like everyone should be honored and noted for what they do. It gives JCU a good reputation for those who defend the country. It was a good stepping ground for future military appreciation days,” said Reis.