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West Point Colonel Addresses Harvard Graduates at First-Ever Veterans’ Affinity Celebration

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U.S. Army Colonel and West Point professor Everett Spain urged graduating Harvard veterans to treat their degree as a “commission to do good” during the University’s first annual veterans’ affinity graduation celebration.

The event, held at the Science and Engineering Complex on Tuesday, also featured addresses by Harvard’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Sherri A. Charleston and Harvard Extension School Veteran Student Society President Chris A. Yoosefi, a Navy veteran who co-organized the event with the Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

During his keynote speech, Spain — the father of a graduating Army ROTC cadet — walked attendees through the history of veterans at Harvard, stretching from the Revolutionary War and Harvard-educated soldiers to Harvard’s decisions to recognize Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in 2011 and Army ROTC in 2012.

“Captain Gardner and 21 other Harvard alums gave their lives for our freedom in the Revolution, but our country was born and we were rescued from tyranny,” Spain said, referring to Captain Isaac Gardner, Class of 1747, who was killed in the Revolutionary War. “And you know what, that’s important to me.”

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As Spain took the audience through major conflicts in the United States and the Harvard affiliates who served in each, he ended each description with some iteration of “And that’s important to me.”

Spain said that the veterans in the room — “especially as Harvard veterans” — were role models for others to emulate. “Our world would benefit from and follow our example of defending freedom and serving others,” he said.

On a closing note, Spain offered graduates two charges — “don’t let anything stop you” and “take care of others along the way” — asking them to swear them to a friend or family member in the room.

Juan Campana, the outreach coordinator for the HES Veteran Student Society, said after the celebration he was proud of the group for helping to organize the event.

“I’m really proud of our organization,” Campana said. “And not only that, but of Harvard itself for allowing us to have an affinity for the first time.”

Campana also said the group would continue to fundraise for books and stipends for veterans in the Extension School.

During her remarks, Charleston thanked Spain for speaking at the event and Yoosefi for his help in organizing it.

“If going to save the world doesn’t work out,” she quipped, Yoosefi has “a job here at Harvard,” — adding that she’s heard “the presidency is open.”

Charleston urged the graduates to remain involved at their alma mater and to help grow the new event.

“I hope that you will continue to be a part of the Harvard Community and, please, come back — celebrate with us at future veterans’ celebrations,” she said. “Let’s make this so big that we have to move to Memorial Church next time.”

—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at jo.lemann@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @Jo_Lemann.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

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