Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
November 7, 2007
DeKalb — Members of the Northern Illinois University community can honor veterans Friday, Nov. 9, during the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the flagpole across from Altgeld Hall. All are welcome.
Scheduled for 11 a.m. – ceremonies typically take place at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – the NIU Veterans Club-sponsored event offers a chance to pay tribute to men and women who have served, or are serving, in the military.
This year’s observance is held early because Veterans Day falls on the weekend.
Speakers include Craig Engel, commander of NIU’s ROTC and the chair of the Department of Military Science, and Jon Lehuta, the club’s adviser. Club member Jennifer Webster will sing the national anthem. NIU’s ROTC will provide the color guard and rifle team.
Club President John Galan, a clinical laboratory sciences major, will lead the ceremony.
Galan served for seven years in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Iraq in 2003 as a medic with a field artillery unit. He currently is a Reservist and a platoon sergeant with the Crestwood, Ill.-based medical detachment of the National Guard.
“I served because I had always wanted to. My father was in the military for 25 years – he was Special Forces – and after my oldest sister was born, he joined the National Guard and Reserves. When he drilled, sometimes the whole family went along, so I was exposed very young. Two days after I turned 17, in 1996, I joined,” Galan said.
“I like serving because I feel we’re getting something,” he added. “I don’t feel like it’s a sacrifice because what we’re getting back is so valuable, like freedom and liberty.”
Veterans Day is important to keep the successes and sacrifices of U.S. troops in the spotlight, he said.
“A lot of attention was given to Al Gore for winning the Nobel Prize, but almost nobody’s heard of the Navy Seal who got the Medal of Honor after dying in combat in 2005 in Afghanistan,” Galan said, referring to President George W. Bush’s Oct. 22 medal presentation to the family of U.S. Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy.
But while the distinction of a Congressional Medal of Honor is rare, Galan said, several Nobel prizes are bestowed each year.
“The fact that the issues of veterans are not as present in the public mind as they should be is a problem,” he said. “All the veterans coming back from these current conflicts are going to need a bigger, more effective Department of Veterans Affairs. The Department of Defense and the VA need to be better connected so there are not gaps in care. Issues like these are made more relevant when Veterans Day comes around. It’s important to take care of the people who are taking care of us.”
The NIU Veterans Club, which in 1956 donated the flagpole which stands above each November’s remembrance, is one of the university’s oldest organizations. For more information, visit www.niuveteransclub.org.
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