Not just a number, more than a name

Monmouth University’s Veterans Roll Call honors fallen service members

Staff Writer

WEST LONG BRANCH — The chilly November air contrasted with the warm sun shining on the patio of the Rebecca Stafford Student Center at Monmouth University, providing a reflective scene for the Nov. 11 roll call to honor fallen men and women of America’s armed forces.

Monmouth University took part in a nationwide grassroots initiative to honor those Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade. The date, Nov. 11, 2011, Veterans Day, signified a perfect symmetry of time: during the roll call remembrance, time stood still.

A gathering of about 30 students and faculty members gathered at 9:30 a.m. to listen as the first of 6,313 names of the fallen were read by Jeff Hood, retired first sergeant and coordinator of veterans services at Monmouth University.

“Today marks the 10th anniversary of Veterans Day in the post-Sept. 11 era,” said Hood. “Our purpose is simple: to let those still serving know that we have not forgotten their sacrifices or those who have fallen.”

One hundred and eighty-three colleges and universities in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., participated in the all-day roll call. The names of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and government agents were read in chronological order and took about eight hours to complete.

One of those names was U.S. Army Cpl. Michael Curtin of Howell, a longtime friend and Howell High School classmate of Kevin Downey, an Air Force veteran.

Hood waved Downey to the podium, paused, and let Downey recite his fallen friend’s name.

“This is something … I don’t even know what to say, to be honest with you. A lot of people are gone,” said Downey, who appreciated the roll call ceremony.

“I like it because veterans in the military are a lot of times just a number and they are treated as a number. This puts a name to a number, which has a lot more meaning. I want to know who that person was. I don’t care about the number; I want to know who they were. That’s what’s important, I think,” he said.

Hunter Brockriede is a student at Monmouth, set to graduate in May with a degree in political science. From 2004 to 2008 he was a U.S. Marine and served two combat tours in Iraq.

Sept. 11, 2001, was a day all will remember. For Brockriede, it was his call to duty.

“When we were attacked [on Sept. 11], I think it’s people’s duty, especially the young generation, to give back, to go protect what we value so much. People in hindsight don’t really have that perspective. They really don’t understand what it’s like to give back for all they have.

“People can do whatever they want in this country, so, in my opinion, the best way to say thank you was for me to be a part of what I did. That was the main motivation for me,” he said.

The West Long Branch native returned from service inAugust 2008 and enrolled in the university the following month. He currently serves as president of the school’s veterans association, along with Hood.

Students and faculty members walking to and from class stopped along their route to listen to the ceremony, many of them pausing in the high-traffic campus walkways.

Brockriede was one of many people throughout the day who gave their time to recite the names of the fallen Americans.

“To me, it’s personal. I have a lot of friends that we haven’t gotten to yet on the list. I understand the importance of it, so I try to make sure I say the names correctly and take a little time to say each name, because it means a lot,” he said. “When you’ve been there, when you see how some of these people have died and what they gave up, it touches home. It’s personal.”