ROTC honors those who served at Veterans Day commemoration


Kent State ROTC Army and Air Force members celebrate Veterans Day, Nov. 7 2019.

Women and men in uniform stood together but in separate huddles near Kent State’s student green Thursday, Nov. 7 for the annual Veterans Day commemoration.

Within one of those huddles, a group of students in separate ROTC windbreaker uniforms prepared to run across campus as they leaned against the pillars of the Kiva. During the commemoration, four cadets ran a mile at a time, switching off consecutively. 

During the run, cadet Morgan Hawk, a junior business management major, said the ROTC cadets carried the American, the POW (Prisoner of War) flag and the Kent State flag a mile around campus in honor of the prisoners of war. 

The army ROTC cadets continued to run for eight hours, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. The proceeds raised during the run will be given to Kent State’s golf team, who are partnering with ROTC in a fundraiser for Folds of Honor, an organization providing educational support to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members.

Aside from the runners, other ROTC students near the student green practiced their march beside three flagpoles. Sophomore cadet John Moes from Army ROTC acted as captain of the color guard during the flag raising for the prisoner of war event.

The flag raising was performed by a joint color guard, meaning 10 total army and air force members participated.

“It’s a big event and we have a lot of important speakers here regarding our military and those who have served in the past so it’s a really honorable event,” Moes said.

Veterans arrived and mingled with one another as they waited for the flag raising to begin. Many of whom were Kent State alumni who were invited to attend.

“I went to ROTC here at Kent State and then I went to Ft. Eustis and served there, then Ft. Bragg during World War I then I got out and married my wife,” said George Zehnde, a veteran and Kent State alumnus. 

In another corner, Albert Desarro, AeroSpace Science instructor at Buchtel High School, stood with the Air Force Jr ROTC Corp. Desarro teaches students the meaning of community service and tries to acclimate them outside of the classroom; especially during Veterans Day ceremonies.

“Our primary purpose in the program is citizenship building, so we try to get the cadets off campus and in uniform as much as possible just to give back,” Desarro said. “They get a little bit of fun out of it and they’re not sitting in class all day.” 

The Air Force Jr ROTC Corp volunteered at the beginning of the commemoration by handing out miniature American flags and assisting veterans to their seats.

Dr. N.J. Akbar, assistant dean of University College and U.S. Army veteran, acted as emcee during the commemoration. President Todd Diacon was soon-after introduced.

“We do this formally once a year at ceremonies such as this one and it’s good that we do so. But ideally, we live out our appreciation for service and the armed forces throughout the year,” Diacon said.

He referenced his father, James Lewis Diacon, a veteran who piloted landing crafts at nearly every Pacific Island invasion during World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy. Diacon made the point that service in the armed forces and a university education go together to continue to improve the lives of citizens from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Diacon then introduced the main speaker, Air Force veteran Lt. Col Colleen VanNarra, to the stage. VanNarra discussed the importance of saying yes to opportunities and the idea that all nationalities are much more alike than they are different.

“The best way to thank a veteran is to be the kind of American worth fighting for. Just love this country and commit to making it better,” she said.

Contact Lauryn Oglesby at [email protected].