Veterans Day Observance on The Hill © Nov. 13, 2006 Norwich University Office of Communications

75mm pack howiters firing on campus.

Photo by Jay EricsonCadets fire a 75 mm pack howitzer during the 2006 Veteran’s Day Observance ceremony.

On Nov. 11, 2005, sophomore Andrew Chobanian was “just one of the crowd” marching in Norwich University’s annual Veterans Day parade. This year, however, was different for the 20-year-old Hanover, N.H. native.

“It’s a great honor to be a veteran,” Chobanian said just before the start of Friday’s parade. “Now, when I listen to the Star Spangled Banner, I get chills. But it’s a great honor to be able to serve your country and know that you did something for it, especially fighting in the War on Terror.”

Looking across the Upper Parade as the sun dropped behind Chaplin Hall, Chobanian said it was important for him to be back with his “Arty Boys” for this day. Stationed in Fallujah, Iraq, for much of the year, Chobanian was just two weeks back from the Middle East before he trekked north to Norwich to register for classes and take part in the Veterans Day ceremony. Heading back to The Hill, he said, has been a necessary part of the transition process.

“I’m adjusting now,” Chobanian said. “Part of the transition for me is just coming up here. These guys are my brothers; we went through a lot freshman year. They’re like my best friends, so part of the transition is just being able to hang out with them.”

Despite standing out from his comrades in Artillery Company – Chobanian was clad in his Desert Battle Uniform – it didn’t take long for the young vet to get back in the swing of things. As the names of each U.S. war and operation were read aloud, Chobanian and crew scrambled on the green in front of Dewey Hall, loading and firing successive rounds from two, 75mm pack howitzers. With each deafening crack, golden hydrangea petals just past their prime flitted to the ground as if to honor America’s fallen soldiers.

The Corps marching on the UP during the 2006 Veterans Day Observance ceremony.

Photo by Jay Ericson The Corps marching on the UP at the 2006 Veterans Day Oberservance ceremony.

Roughly 60 people turned out for the late afternoon parade, during which the school’s Corps of Cadets marched, echo taps rang out from University’s rooftops and a 21-gun salute was offered up in honor of the nation’s veterans. Speaking from the steps of Jackman Hall, former Commandant of Cadets, faculty member of 23 years and retired Navy pilot, Cmdr. William Beatty, said he was proud of the patriotism that has been and always will be a part of Norwich University.

“Many Norwich graduates have gone on to serve this nation, in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard,” the 81-year-old Beatty said. “We are all very proud of those who have served, are now serving, and yes, especially for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in giving their lives for their country. And that’s what this day is all about – remembering the sacrifices of so many, so that we can enjoy the freedoms this nation affords us all.”

Prior to the ceremony, a steady stream of veterans, both young and old, strolled around the campus snapping pictures of military memorabilia and sharing memories with students and one another. Wesley Rumney, a 75-year-old Army veteran and the Commander of American Legion Post 63 in Barre, Vt., was one of those in attendance on Friday.

“When I got out of the Army in 1955, they were building the mess hall,” Rumney said. “And I went to work at Consolidated Construction and was here for a few years, that’s why I have all these stories. I helped [build] the mess hall, the [White] chapel, Goodyear Hall, the bell tower, the hockey rink, and we redid the interior of Dewey.”

Although he has spent many years on the Norwich campus throughout his life, Rumney said this year was the first Veterans Day celebration he’d been able to attend on The Hill. Sitting in the reserved Veterans seating in front of Jackman, Rumney watched with pride as Beatty, President Richard Schneider and Reg. Cmdr. Hillary Britch ’07 laid a memorial wreath at the foot of the flag pole.

As for Chobanian, although a seat among the veterans was his for the taking on Friday, he opted to stay with his Arty Boys, many of whom will likely join the ranks of America’s finest veterans in years to come. Because of that, Chobanian has no plans to leave The Hill anytime soon.

“I want to help with the Marine Department getting students up to speed about fighting a war in an urban environment,” he said. “You know, some of them will go over to Iraq, and I have a lot of knowledge, having just come back, that I can share with them. If they have any questions, I’m willing to answer them.”