Members of the Drexel University community gathered in Gerri C. LeBow Hall May 22 to commemorate those who have served and spread awareness about local war memorials.
The ninth annual Memorial Day Primer, hosted by the Drexel Veterans Association, the Office of Veteran Student Services and the Drexel Veteran Task Force, embodied the theme “Where We Remember” this year.
The event opened with the Star-Spangled Banner, sung by Brandon Nelson, a student in Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, the presentation of the colors by members of the Drexel University Army ROTC and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
The program then welcomed guest speakers — including Lt. Col. Stephen Messenger, Professor of Military Science in Drexel University’s Army ROTC, of the U.S. Army; Jessica Wisniewski, Assistant Director of Events and Visitor Relations and Drexel Veterans Association Advisor, of the U.S. Navy; Olivia McDonald, a student in the LeBow College of Business, a student ambassador in the Office of Veteran Student Services and of the U.S. Marine Corps; and Chuck McNally, Assistant Dean and Academic Advisor in the College of Arts and Sciences and of the U.S. Army — to briefly present on local monuments dedicated to those who have served.
As a testament to the theme “Where We Remember,” the importance of memorials that are often overlooked — like the Angel of Resurrection in 30th Street Station and the Smith Memorial Arch in Fairmount Park — was highlighted.
“This was my first [Memorial Day Primer], but we really wanted to focus on — of course — ‘where we remember’,” Olivia McDonald, a veteran and a student in the LeBow College of Business said. “We walk around the streets of Philadelphia all the time … past all of these statues and memorials that should be very important to us, but often we just walk by and forget about them.”
McDonald explained that Philadelphia is filled with memorials dedicated to those who have served the country but often do not receive the attention they deserve — hence the theme of this year’s Memorial Day Primer.
“It’s important for us to [present about the memorials] and to talk about them,” McDonald said. “If you walk by with your friends, you [likely] don’t talk about it; you often don’t stop and recognize what [they] mean. [Honoring local war memorials] should be important … because those people who we are memorializing are the reasons we live our lives [the way we do] today.”
To conclude the presentation, Jane Kelly, Police Accreditation Manager for the Department of Public Safety, read “In Flanders Fields,” a 1915 war poem written by Lt. Col. John McCrae during World War I and published after his death. The 15-line war poem features the poppy, a vivid red flower, which is now a symbol for the great loss in war.
Many at the Memorial Day Primer, including Rebecca Weidensaul, Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success, wore small, hand-knit red and green poppies specially made for the event.
The Drexel University Army ROTC executed the retirement of the colors, and Cadet Thomas Charno, an ROTC member and student in the College of Arts and Sciences, played Taps.
Weidensaul emphasized the importance of honoring veterans and explained that, through the annual Memorial Day Primer, current generations can formally celebrate those who have served much more.
“With these [Memorial Day Primers], we really try to explain [the experience of war],” Weidensaul said. “We acknowledge, we honor and we find strength through sacrifice.”
All are invited to the Memorial Day Ceremony May 27 at 10:30 a.m. at the Cochran Triangle on 37th Street and Powelton Avenue.