On November 12th, 2018 I was able to be a part of a very special event here at Tufts. I was one of about 10 Tufts ROTC students who had the opportunity to participate in the Passing of the Flag Ceremony to commemorate Veterans Day and celebrate the veterans in our community.
As per tradition, Air Force cadets, Army cadets, Navy midshipmen, commanders, veterans, faculty, athletes and students gathered at the Tufts Memorial Steps to observe the one hundred year anniversary of Armistice Day.
The sun shone so brightly and the sky was bluer than I’ve ever seen it throughout my short time in Boston. Us ROTC cadets and midshipmen spread out along the steps--each on one platform of the Memorial Steps.
In preparation for the ceremony to begin, we stood at attention, eyes toward the flag waving in front of us as we saw out of the corner of our eyes, students and veterans line the steps to watch this special event. I tried to stay as still as I could. I struggled to hold back my smile as my ROTC friends on the sidelines giggled and thumbs-upped in support. They had done this too as freshmen, and now they got to watch as new cadets followed in their footsteps.
The sun was glaring, and my shoes shined like I had actually shined them correctly, and not like someone who didn’t know what shoe shine was until a month ago. The wrinkles in my uniform that have been in constant battle with my Goodwill iron for weeks seemed to have finally given in for the special day. As one of only 2 Air Force cadets currently at Tufts, I felt like a statue representing a thick history of military history in the air, and at my university. I felt supported and I felt strong.
At exactly 11am, the crowd silenced. The silence was interrupted by the trumpeteers singing the familiar harmony of taps, and then the star spangled banner was performed by the a capella group, the Jackson Jills. How lucky am I, to attend such a special university, full of talent, designed to support one another.
‘Old Glory’ was then read by a Midshipmen over the microphone, and the ceremony began. I saw the red white and blue of our flag slowly floating toward me. Finally, it reached me and the Midshipmen carrying it stopped. I gave a long and slow salute as he passed the precisely folded banner to me. I received it, and started my slow and steady ascent of the Memorial Steps, through history, toward the Army cadet on the platform above me.
I felt the eyes of students watching me march. More, I felt the eyes of Tufts veterans who had once climbed these steps as hopeful and terrified freshmen in college. When that veteran in the crowd was here, they probably did not know how their Air force career would look, and neither do I. But we both know the power of serving our country, representing our school, and doing so with our friends, midshipmen and cadets by our side.
I watched, now at attention, as the flag made its way through the military branches and up the platforms--each representing different wars Tufts alumni have fought in--and up to the top of the steps. Finally, the flag arrived at the top, for all to see. The Midshipmen marched the flag over an inscription in the granite and the ceremony came to an end.
I reunited with my friends, all of us going over the excitement and indescribable feeling we just got to experience. On our way out, curious, I passed over the inscription in the granite that the American flag had arrived at just moments before. It reads:
“To honor the men and women of tufts who served their country with unselfish devotion in time of war
This memorial was built by their classmates and their friends in grateful appreciation”