Stanford salutes its veterans with solemn and festive activities

Wreaths will be placed at 11 a.m. today in Memorial Court and at Memorial Auditorium. A Veterans Day BBQ will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at Sigma Nu.

L.A. Cicero Student veterans Sebastain Gould and Guez Salinas

Student veterans Sebastain Gould and Guez Salinas visit Memorial Auditorium to read a Veterans Day letter from President John Hennessy and view the honor roll of engraved names of members of the Stanford community who gave their lives in war.

In 1900, Jane Stanford dedicated Memorial Court, an elegant courtyard of lawns and flowerbeds framed by walkways, to the memory of Stanford volunteers who fought in the Spanish-American War, including two students who were killed in action.

Today, the university will commemorate Veterans Day by placing a floral wreath in Memorial Court – and another at the entrance to Memorial Auditorium – as tributes to veterans, past and present, of the Stanford community.

A letter from President John Hennessy will be placed with the wreaths.

"We are honored to have at least 50 United States military veterans currently enrolled at Stanford as undergraduate and graduate students," Hennessy wrote in the Veterans Day letter.

"Many of them have served our country in the past few years in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each year, for the past several years, their numbers at Stanford have been growing. We are privileged to have them contributing to the vibrancy of our community as well as to Stanford's rich heritage of service."

Stanford's veteran population includes undergraduates and graduate students, including students enrolled in the Law School, the Graduate School of Business and the School of Medicine.

Hennessy said the wreaths honor Stanford alumni who are veterans, as well as those who are serving in the military today. The wreaths also are a tribute to those in the Stanford community who gave their lives for their country in war.

L.A. Cicero Jamal Sowell and Albert Gibbs with veterans memorials

Marine lieutenant Jamal Sowell, left, poses by the wreath and plaque honoring Stanford veterans in Memorial Court as his friend Albert Gibbs takes a photo. The two were visiting Stanford as Sowell considers schools where he will pursue his Ph.D.

Inside the lobby of Memorial Auditorium, which opened in 1937 as a memorial to Stanford veterans of World War I, plaques bear the names of alumni, students, staff and faculty who died in every war since then, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Please take a moment today to note the names on these walls," Hennessy wrote. "We ask that you pay them a quiet moment of respect and gratitude as we all are reminded that these areas of the campus were established for just this purpose."

A 2009 slide show features Stanford veterans past and present.

The university is also holding a Veterans Day barbecue from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Sigma Nu Fraternity on Mayfield Avenue. Students, alumni, staff, faculty and family members are invited to attend.

William Perry, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former U.S. Secretary of Defense, will speak at the event. Perry, who received his bachelor's and master's degrees at Stanford, also is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

One of the hosts for the barbecue is the Haas Center for Public Service, which established a Military Service as Public Service project last January. The project is dedicated to recognizing and supporting students with connections to the military, including veterans and members of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps.

"A lot of students told us they felt they had to hide their service," said Kristina Lobo, director of student development and leadership programs at the Haas Center. "They felt marginalized because of their connection to the military. Their military service wasn't recognized as a form of public service. That's something we're trying to change now through this project."

One of the project's first actions was to provide travel stipends to ROTC students who commute to other universities in the Bay Area for training.

Sebastain Gould, who enlisted in the Marine Corps after his freshman year at Stanford, said he got strange looks when he returned and walked around campus wearing his uniform. Some people, he said, were hesitant to let him into dorms.

"I'd really like an environment where I don't have to worry about that sort of thing – not just for me, but for people who come here in the future," said Gould, a sophomore majoring in philosophy and the student coordinator for the Military Service as Public Service project. "This is the way to change that."

The other hosts of the Veterans Day barbecue are Sigma Nu Fraternity and United Students for Veterans' Health, which will provide cards for those who would like to send notes to veterans at the Menlo Park Veterans Affairs Hospital. The Office of the President also provided support for the barbecue.