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Campus & Community - Society & Culture

Drexel Draws Together to Honor Veterans, Fallen

May 22, 2015

Graves of veterans decorated with flags.
Graves of veterans decorated with flags.

Addressing the audience for Drexel’s fourth annual Memorial Day Primer, John McGarrigle discussed instances service members being honored throughout history.

He discussed how salutes were derived from knights lifting the visors on their helmets and the salute passed between the victorious Union army and the defeated Confederates at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865.

He eventually spoke of a 19-year-old former soldier who was greeted with free beers in a South Philadelphia bar in 1920. The young man had enlisted in the Army before he turned 17 and suffered through a gas attack during World War I

“They were honoring him with simple beers,” McGarrigle said. “That man was John McGarrigle, my grandfather.”

95 years later, the younger John McGarrigle, a 1969 graduate of the LeBow College of Business and himself an Army veteran, received a simple honor as well — the support of current students who are a part of his fraternity, Lamda Chi Alpha.

“It’s great to see his dedication in every capacity: To us, this chapter, the University and, especially, he’s very active in the military community,” said Brian Blake.

A poppy worn for Memorial Day on the jacket of a Drexel Memorial Day Primer attendee.
A poppy worn for Memorial Day on the jacket of a Drexel Memorial Day Primer attendee.

“It’s a really humbling experience because we’re worried about our everyday operations like, ‘How am I going to do in class? How am I going to help the chapter?’” said Kevin New. “And this was a guy who did all that and was also worried about serving his country, so it was a really humbling experience for us.”

McGarrigle helped the goal of the Memorial Day Primer at in the Bossone Research Enterprise Center, to honor those who have served the United States in its armed services and to better familiarize everyone with what the holiday means for the military community.

Those honored with the "My Boss is a Patriot Award" standing during the Memorial Day Primer. From left, Susan Aldridge, PhD, Michael Harrington and Lamont Wilson.
Those honored with the "My Boss is a Patriot Award" standing during the Memorial Day Primer. From left, Susan Aldridge, PhD, Michael Harrington and Lamont Wilson.

More than 600 student veterans currently attend Drexel, according to Rebecca Weidensaul, PhD, associate dean of students in Student Affairs. She said it was important for Drexel to maintain its status as a veteran-friendly campus.

Recognition of that came in the form of “My Boss is a Patriot” awards from the Department of Defense. Susan Aldridge, PhD, the senior vice president of Online Learning and President of Drexel University Online, Lamont Wilson, director of Goodwin College of Professional Studies’ Degree Completion program, and Michael Harrington, director of Prospective Student Advising at Drexel University Online,  received the awards for being supportive of employees in the National Guard or Army Reserve.

While happy for the awards, Weidensaul remained mindful of the purpose of Memorial Day.

“We can achieve both these purposes by remembering and honoring those who were lost in battle and celebrating the American ideals that they successfully defended,” Weidensaul said. “But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that this holiday is difficult for some. In fact, many.”

In light of that, Weidensaul said that Drexel understands Memorial Day deeply in part because of Navy Lt. Christopher Mosko, a 2007 graduate who was killed in the in Afghanistan in 2012.

Additionally, Engineering professor and veteran Joe Martin got up and listed the names of his childhood friends from Boston who did not return from war.

“Let us honor them well today,” Weidensaul said of fallen service members.


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