Strains of bagpipe music lingered in the air as students, faculty and Providence community members gathered on the Main Green Wednesday to honor the soldiers who have served in armed duty. But unlike previous Veteran's Day ceremonies at Brown, for the first time in 20 years a University president and a political official participated in the annual commemoration.
President Ruth Simmons introduced Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, a veteran himself, who spoke about the need to remember soldiers past and present.
The annual ceremony, sponsored by the Office of Campus Life, Office of the Dean of the College and the Brown University Student Veterans Society , began at 12:30 p.m., with a procession from the flagpole of the Main Green to Soldiers Arch on Lincoln Field.
Guided by miniature American flags lining the walk, patrons followed the uniformed men and women of the Patriot Battalion Honor Guard of Providence College to the green in front of Soldiers Arch.
The official ceremony began with a prayer by Chaplain Janet Cooper Nelson.
Chaney Harrison '11, president of the Student Veterans Society and a former Army paratrooper, then gave the opening speech. He described Brown's extensive history with the armed forces beginning with its first class in 1764.
The introduction was followed by a reading of letters written by soldiers in World War I who had attended Brown. Four student veterans, Christopher Baker '09 GS, Martin Bell '11, John Hermansen '11 and David Salsone '13, read the soldiers' letters to the other attendees.
One soldier's letter from 1918 described his encounter with other Brown students during the war. "Old Brown is not asleep," the soldier wrote.
Simmons then made her first appearance at the Veteran's Day ceremony in her time as University president. She said the attendees were gathered "to pay tribute to the courageous men and women who served our nation."
While she did not give a formal speech herself, Simmons introduced Reed, who has a long history with the military. He served as an Army Ranger, paratrooper, Infantry Platoon Leader, Company Commander and Battalion Staff Officer.
Reed said it was important to honor the veterans for their service to their country. Veterans Day is a day to "to recollect the service of thousands, to recall and remember the contributions of many" and "to recall and thank their families," he said.
Cooper-Nelson closed the ceremony with another prayer.
"We wish to convey with our words a voice of honor," she said. "May we in setting these memorials, urge forward a peaceful world."
After the prayer, the ceremony closed with the presentation of remnants of the reconstructed Soldiers' Arch to Simmons and Reed, who then proceeded to lay wreaths on the war memorial as the bagpipes played "Amazing Grace."
Those who attended the service said the University's observance of the holiday was tasteful.
"I thought that it was necessary and wonderful that Brown honored the veterans," said Clay Wertheimer '10, the president of the Undergraduate Council of Students.
Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, said the ceremony "was very moving and nicely done."
Klawunn said the reading of the letters by student veterans "made it very meaningful and really shows the commitment of students."
"I'm thankful that we have a veteran's society," Salsone said. "It's nice to be able to talk about the history that Brown shares with the military."
"It's encouraging to see that the University respects our presence here," he added. It is "good to see support from the outside."