Veterans of tomorrow eager to serve

7:28 PM, Nov 11, 2009   |    comments
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At the University of Minnesota, it wasn't just Veterans Day; it was Student Veterans Appreciation Day.

The speakers at a lunchtime program were the veterans of today -- those who served in World War Two, Korea and Vietnam.

"Veterans are very, very special and they're unique," said J. Robinson, the U's wrestling coach and a Vietnam veteran.  "There's a lot of people that want to be veterans but will not step forward and do what a veteran does."

The audience was filled with some of the veterans of tomorrow -- students who are part of the U's deputy growing ROTC program.

"The generation that we're dealing with right now, the young people of today want to serve," says Capt. Ryan Curl, the U's deputy enrollment scholarship officer.  "They've been raised their life to serve their country, to serve their community."

Captain Curl says in just the past four years, the U's ROTC program has gone from 80 cadets to 150 cadets.  And there are many reasons they join.

Sophomore Curtis Feder says 9/11 prompted him to serve his country.

Junior Aaron Sanborn, who was already in nursing school, decided the military seemed like a good fit.  "I got really excited about the opportunity to serve my country as a nurse," he says.

Junior Angela Irrgang admits she didn't have a lot of direction in her life.  "I was one of those college students who didn't know what they wanted to do after college and, to me, it seemed like the best way to have a purpose."

Irrang joined in February, midway through her sophomore year, and says the economy played a small role.

"It's job security," she says.  "I'm going to have a job right after college."

Recent college graduate and one-time ROTC cadet, 2nd Lt. David Cocchiarella, was commissioned in August.  He'll eventually join the 101st Airborne in Kentucky and plans to earn his first combat patch when he arrives in Afghanistan next September.

"I'm excited to go," he says.  "I feel like I've been training for about five years to do this and I won't want to waste it."

The University of Saint Thomas, which has a huge ROTC program, has also seen an increase in cadets.  That program will hold its annual Veterans Day 24-hour vigil starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.  Cadets will slowly march in front of a flagpole at the center of campus for 15-minute intervals.

(Copyright 2009 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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