Wearing an air force dress uniform, Dennis Cahill Jr. saluted his father for the first time Thursday.
The salute — a gesture of respect among those in the U.S. military — signified a new connection between father and son.
“It was a very proud moment,” Cahill Jr. said. “I always thought of him as my dad. This was different.”
Cahill, a sophomore who joined the ROTC earlier this semester, and his father, Col. Dennis Cahill Sr., were two of more than 100 people to take part in a Veterans Day memorial ceremony outside Memorial Hall.
Cahill said this will likely be his father’s last Veterans Day as an active officer since he plans to retire in the next few months.
Veterans, community members, students, and families like the Cahills met at the Carolina Alumni Memorial in Memory of those Lost in Military Service to formally celebrate the national holiday.
The memorial, located on Cameron Avenue between Phillips and Memorial halls, was dedicated to fallen UNC soldiers in 2007.
About 50 ROTC cadets and midshipmen from three branches of the military were in attendance.
After a prayer and the national anthem, retired Col. Bill Causey spoke of the University’s military legacy and programming in his keynote address.
“I don’t know many schools who contribute their names to veterans,” Causey said, referring to the Civil War roots of the Tar Heel nickname.
Causey added many buildings and statues, such as Silent Sam, honor and commemorate veterans at UNC, his alma mater.
Causey, who enlisted in 1969, is responsible for Army ROTC activities in North and South Carolina.
He said 456 students have graduated from the ROTC program since its inception.
Retired UNC history professor and veteran E. Willis Brooks said the ceremony was smaller and simpler than in years past.
Brooks, who served in Germany from 1958 to 1961, said it was a shame the ceremony drew a relatively small crowd.
“Almost no one unrelated to the military thinks about the war,” Brooks said. “The military is a huge part of our national budget.”
Brooks said many faculty members at UNC used to be veterans, which led to higher attendance at Veterans Day events.
He added students seem to compose the majority of the veterans on campus today.
Senior Shane Hale, an Army veteran who served two tours in Iraq, said he appreciated the ceremony’s ability to call attention to a small contingency on campus.
“They’re like a hidden minority,” Hale, 30, said. “It’s important to recognize the people who fight for our freedom.”
Causey ended his speech by emphasizing the importance of honoring those who have served.
“I encourage you to thank a veteran today,” Causey said.
“You have a mission.”
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