Date November 11, 2022
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Veterans Day ceremony at Brown honors the service of veterans past, present and future

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Gilbert Cisneros joined University leaders, student veterans and Brown ROTC students in celebrating the service of the nation’s military members.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —  A crowd of more than 200 people from the Brown and Rhode Island communities gathered on Friday, Nov. 11, to commemorate Veterans Day, honor the service of military members and reaffirm the University’s commitment to expanding the number of student veterans on campus.

The event welcomed accomplished military veterans including U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, current chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services; U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Gilbert Cisneros, a Brown alumnus; and Terren Wise, an undergraduate student veteran and member of Brown’s Class of 2026. Reed, Cisneros, Wise and other former service members also had the opportunity to welcome the newest Brown-affiliated members of the Army and Air Force during an ROTC contracting ceremony held during the event.

“Our student veterans and ROTC students bring an incredible diversity of experience and perspective to the University, and they strengthen the education of everyone here on College Hill,” said Brown President Christina H. Paxson during the event.

The ceremony was held on Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle near Soldier’s Memorial Gate, erected in memory of the 42 Brown students, alumni and faculty who lost their lives during World War I. And while the gate may be the most prominent marker honoring military service, the Brown campus as a whole is rich with military significance.

Paxson shared often-overlooked facts about the role Brown and its community members have played during historic military conflicts through the centuries: During the American Revolution, French and American troops were quartered on campus, and British troops in Narragansett Bay were spotted from the top of College Hill; in World War I, the campus became a military camp, and training exercises were held on the same spot that held the speaker’s podium and lines of uniformed ROTC students during Friday’s ceremony. Scores of Brown students served in the Civil War and World War II — 71% of the Class of 1942 was enrolled in the armed services — and many alumni also served honorably in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Since the time of Brown’s founding in 1764, brave young men, at first, and then brave young women as well received both military and academic training before going out in the world to serve their country,” Paxson said. “We are so proud of all that our veterans have achieved, and continue to achieve, and the incredible strength they possess. This is why we have worked so hard to bring more student-veterans — and more students who are entering military service — to Brown.”

In recent years, Brown has both expanded military ROTC partnerships and launched an initiative to double the number of military veterans enrolled as Brown undergraduates by 2024. The campus now has 79 student veterans, including 41 undergraduates, enrolled, as well as 39 ROTC cadets who will go on to serve the country.

Wise, one among those 79 student veterans, talked about how his life experiences inspired him to expand the definition of veteran.

“To me, a veteran is one who puts their life on the line to defend the values they stand for,” Wise said. “Someone who dares to gain wisdom, to fight ignorance and intolerance. But most importantly, a veteran is someone who stands up in the face of adversity no matter how unsurpassable it may seem.”

Wise said that his own setbacks, challenges and even failures (including dropping out of college at age 18) created a foundation for his success in the military, where he served as a submarine nuclear machinist in the Navy, and for his early success at Brown. Wise is now a first-year student focusing on engineering and physics.

Today, Brown’s ROTC program has expanded to just under 40 students, its veterans community boasts almost 80 on campus — that says a lot about Brown’s efforts to highlight service to the nation and its support to our veterans.

Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr. U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
Gilbert R. Cisneros Jr.

Military members face unique challenges even — and especially — after they retire from active duty, Wise said. He called for ongoing support for veterans, starting simply with acknowledgment of their service. On this day and always, he said, “we acknowledge the courage of veterans in the battlefield. We acknowledge the courage of veterans in the classroom, and we acknowledge the courage of veterans facing adversity in their own lives.”

The number of attendees at Brown’s Veterans Day ceremony continues to increase every year, guest speakers including Reed and Cisneros noted.

“It's an honor to be with fellow veterans today to celebrate Veterans Day,” Reed said, looking at the crowd of past, present and future Armed Services members. “I can recall being at what I believe was the first of these ceremonies, a long time ago. There were not so many people here.”

Noting Brown’s efforts to reignite ties with ROTC programs and expand enrollment of and support for student veterans on campus, Reed highlighted how critical it is to have a military that reflects America, and is prepared to defend the U.S. Constitution. He also talked about the call to serve that connects all veterans, and the importance of honoring their service through continued commitment to the country’s ideals.

“We swear allegiance to our Constitution, to the values it embodies of justice, of tolerance, of opportunity,” he said. “Those are what generations of Americans have fought for and died for. We honor their memory today. We thank them for their service, for their sacrifice, and we also recognize that to truly recognize them is not in words, but in deeds; in completing and assuming the task they had of building a better America, of building a more peaceful world.”

Keynote speaker Cisneros — a U.S. Navy veteran himself who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and is now the nation’s Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness — underscored the role played by universities in helping to connect passionate, innovative students with diverse backgrounds and experiences to the military, and in creating a service corps that reflects the diversity of the country.

Cisneros, who earned a master’s degree in urban education policy from Brown, recalled a campus function for student veterans in 2014.

“There were about five of us in attendance, and I believe there was only one ROTC cadet at the time,” he said. “Today, Brown’s ROTC program has expanded to just under 40 students, its veterans community boasts almost 80 on campus — that’s a huge jump from when I attended, and it says a lot about Brown’s efforts to highlight service to the nation and its support to our veterans.”

Cisneros expressed gratitude for the nation’s current military service members and veterans across the country. “They have protected and defended our nation with commitment and without fanfare,” he said. “Your support honors them for their dedication.”

Joining the ranks of military service during the event were the newest Brown community members affiliated with the military. During the ROTC contracting ceremony at the event, seven Army and five Air Force ROTC members solemnly took their oaths.

They echoed those same words recalled by Reed — the same vows pledged by service members throughout American history: “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies foreign and domestic, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”