PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — A rainy Veterans Day crowd took seats in Sayles Hall Wednesday, Nov. 11, at noon for the annual ceremony honoring military veterans from Brown and Rhode Island. Speakers included Brown President Christina Paxson, U.S. Army veteran John McCrillis, and U.S. Navy veteran Russell Knight.
Paxson, other speakers, and administrators led a procession from the flagpole on the College Green to Sayles Hall, with participants following sophomore bagpiper Federico Torti.
Bryan Rippee, a Brown student and U.S. Army veteran, introduced the speakers. Paxson spoke of former and current Brown veterans overseas. “Without question, what all Brown veterans share is a deep desire to make this country, and by [extension] the world, a safer and better place for all of us,” she said.
“To all of you affiliated with the military, know that Brown University will always have your back,” Paxson said, to a round of applause.
McCrillis, a Brown student studying business economics, offered a glimpse into the experiences and challenges veterans face. “This day is a day of action in order to honor those who served. It is for us to realize that we must never be static and there is always work to be done,” McCrillis said. He addressed homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the need for veterans to connect within the community. He spoke of injuries he sustained and the hardship of losing others and received a standing ovation.
Knight, director of public works for the city of Providence, capped off the speeches by thanking the young service members who willingly enlist in the military. “We should thank and recognize veterans, both those who served, those who are serving and those who will serve,” Knight said. “It is because of them we enjoy many of the freedoms we take for granted.”
The Patriot Battalion Army ROTC retired the colors following the speeches.
At a reception later, former service members and alumni spoke about the ceremony.
“I thought this was one of the most moving ceremonies I’ve witnessed,” said Manuel “Manny” Menezes, a 1964 Brown graduate of the NROTC program and a Vietnam War veteran. “As a Marine infantry platoon leader I can well relate to what happened to McCrillis.”
For U.S. Air Force veteran Gary Tougas, the ceremony effectively raised issues about veteran support. “They need to fix the VA, like John was saying,” Tougas said.
Rain or no rain, the annual ceremony stimulated conversations between service members and the Brown community.