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UNC Veterans Day celebration delivered inspiration to future cadets

veterans day rotc
Retired US Marine Corps Captain Larry Greenwold accepts a token from Captain Marc Stern at the annual Veterans' Day Ceremony hosted by UNC RTOC at the UNC NROTC Naval Armory Monday, Nov. 12, 2018.

At the Los Angeles airport in January 1969, now-retired Marine Capt. Larry Greenwold sat in a restaurant, reading a news magazine as he waited for a flight connection to Minneapolis. Greenwold had just returned from Vietnam and hadn’t had access to the news magazine for more than a year. 

In the middle of his reading, a woman from a nearby table approached him and asked if he had been in Vietnam the past year. Greenwold said yes, and the woman inquired if he had any interest in the 1968 Olympics that took place in Mexico City. When Greenwold said yes again, although he missed most of the news while serving, the woman offered him a commemorative 1968 Olympics silver 25-peso coin. 

Greenwold was not sure how to process the moment at the time but still keeps the coin in a visible place in his home and recalls the experience as a memorable moment as a veteran.

This was one story Greenwold — a recipient of 19 Air Medals and one Distinguished Flying Cross during his four years in the Marine Corps — delivered as guest speaker at the UNC Veterans Day Ceremony. The ROTC hosted the ceremony at its Armory on Monday morning.

“It’s a connection to that memory, and it was very meaningful to me as a veteran, and this is reflective of the quality of people that comprise this nation,” Greenwold said. “And this is a good value, and I know that the cadets and midshipmen, as they continue on in their military careers and become a veteran, they will have the opportunity to experience these kind of things as well.”

At the ceremony, Chancellor Carol Folt spoke about UNC’s history of military involvement, from over 2,000 UNC graduates, students and faculty who served in World War I to nearly 19,000 service men that trained at UNC by the end of World War II. Folt said she spent hours reading the stories around the World War I centennial anniversary.

“I was deeply touched and moved and felt that there is just such a need for us to be able to come together to be able to say that we remember, and we’re grateful, and to be able to be together on this day,” Folt said.

Since becoming a veteran, Greenwold said he met other veterans in the community and frequently gets together with them over coffee.

“I have been greatly appreciative of all that this nation has done both in an official way by designating this day to be a day to set aside and honor us veterans,” Greenwold said. “And a nation that’s grateful opens the door for a nation to be a great nation, and that’s what this nation has done.”

Some cadets felt the importance of the ceremony leading into their own futures, as was the case for first-year Cadet Fourth Class Matthew Pinto, who wants to work in operations research or as a cyber officer.

“The ceremony to me is kind of a representation of the future,” Pinto said. “A lot of the cadets you saw in the back are going to be veterans in the future, so it’s a good time to reflect and to look at other veterans who in a way are our own role models and to help inspire us to do the best that we can.”

Sophomore Cadet Third Class Haley Rose thanked veterans for the inspiration that pushes her to become a great officer.

“I think the ceremony is always really important because, you know, there are so many veterans that really did an amazing job for our country, and it’s important to always honor them for their sacrifice and for what they did, and it’s just really inspiring seeing them all here, celebrated for what they did,” Rose said.

Greenwold had his own message of gratitude for the cadets and midshipmen who will become veterans.

“I want to thank you, midshipmen and cadets, for making these great decisions that will shape the future of your life,” Greenwold said. “It will benefit our nation and will benefit you, and we as veterans are fully on your side, and we fully applaud you. We commend you, and we know that you will do well and we say, keep going.” 

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