As the solemn notes of Michael Evers’ bagpipes carried across the campus of College of Coastal Georgia Thursday, students and guests gathered to be part of the college-sponsored tribute to National Roll Call Day.
The annual event is a call to institutions and entire communities to honor members of the U.S. Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country by reading their names out loud.
Students, faculty, military personnel and other guests gathered around the college’s flagpole with red, white and blue ribbons pinned to their chests.
Members of the college’s Veterans Academic Learning Opportunities and Resources organization, better known as VALOR, spent seven months preparing for the tribute. Shawn Boatright, VALOR president, said the event was a chance for the college to send a strong message to those in harm’s way that those studying on campuses, under the umbrella of freedom sustained by military members, were more than grateful for their sacrifice.
Following an invocation by Staff Sgt. Carl Hartman, the NJROTC members of Brunswick High lowered the flag to half staff as Evers piped out the melody of “Amazing Grace.”
A somber college president Greg Aloia addressed the crowd, welcoming all to the ceremony. His voice cracking at times, he recognized the service of his own father and uncle, members of the armed services, and the loss of close friends in the Vietnam War.
Aloia has made a special effort to make College of Coastal Georgia a veteran-friendly campus.
“May God bless us and may God bless our wonderful military,” he said.
Sporting a U.S. Air Force cap, Brunswick Mayor Cornell Harvey, a veteran, spoke next.
“I stand here because I stand on the shoulders of so many who’ve come before me, so many fallen comrades,” he said. “They write a blank check that says, ‘I will give my life if need be.’
“I’m glad you are all here to recognize that this country has done some things to ensure that we’ll all be free, and I’m happy to say on behalf of the city of Brunswick that we recognize this community as a community that loves each other and, if need be, will be called to action.”
More than 100 names of members of the Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard who fell during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom were read and honored.
Gen. Robert Magnus, a decorated member of the U.S. Marine Corps who retired after 39 years of service, was the guest speaker for the event.
He shared the story of an Italian-American soldier who served and fell in World War II, and the 700 soldiers around him who fought and held off some 7,000 Japanese troops.
His story represented the various backgrounds of those in the melting pot of the U.S. that came together when duty called, just as many are doing today in the war on terror.
“They were Americans that came together for a purpose,” he said. “They were there to protect their families and the American way of life.
“There are strong men and women who, during the night, allow us to sleep because they’re willing to do lethal harm to those who would harm us. Today, you are all here to honor another ‘Greatest Generation.’”
As Taps closed the ceremony, the gathering faced the flag with a salute or a hand over their heart, remembering those who have served, as well as those who are still serving and who will serve in the days to come.
The Brunswick News