The NJIT Community Honors Veterans
While extolling civic virtues such as patriotism and courage at NJIT's annual Memorial Day Observance Ceremony, this year’s celebrants focused on the individuals, families and communities that infuse these lofty ideals with meaning.
“I was born and raised in Newark and I’m still connected to the community. I think those connections are what keeps us respectful of the people we serve,” said Brig. Gen. William Marshall, assistant vice president for government and military relations at NJIT, who gave the keynote address.
For inspiration, Marshall had to look no further than his own father, Col. William Marshall, whom he described as a slight but formidable man who received the Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. George C. Patton himself for his exploits in France during a pivotal period of World War II. These include fording the Moselle River by “slinging himself underneath the gun tube of a tank” – he couldn’t swim – and appearing to troops on the banks as if he were “walking on water.”
Charles Brooks, executive director of NJIT’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness, a West Point graduate and a battery commander in the Vietnam War, also chose to recall the service of his father – a Clemson University football player who was recruited into the Secret Service shortly after enlisting and became one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s bodyguards – rather than his own.
“NJIT has always had a strong connection with our armed forces,” noted Mark Neubauer, president of the NJIT Student Senate. “After World War II, veterans comprised 75 percent of the Newark College of Engineering freshman class. Since then, it has graduated students who would go on to become successful commanders and even generals. Currently, more than 100 students are veterans.”
One of them, Kevin Darczuk ’17, the former president of the NJIT Veteran Students Organization, read the poem “Memorial Day” by New Jersey native Joyce Kilmer to mark the day.
The NJIT Giga-Beats, an a capella group, hushed the room with a poignant rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and Clayton Powell ’18 played “Taps” on his saxophone as the room processed out into the rain to raise the flag and lay a wreath underneath it to commemorate fallen soldiers.
Brooks closed the ceremony with another poem, Maj. John McRae’s “In Flanders Fields,” written in memory of a Canadian soldier, Lt. Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres during World War I.
“I like this celebration a lot,” observed Joshua Barker ’19, (above, second from left) a member of Air Force ROTC Detachment 490. "It gives me a better sense of why I serve and a connection to the lives of other people in the military."