A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the celebration of life for Walter Scott, Jr., a Colorado State University alumnus and donor for whom the Scott College of Engineering is named. I had the honor of developing a friendship with Walter over the years, and his passing, while a natural bookend to the story of a life, leaves me saddened.
Still, I couldn’t help but smile when I arrived at the ceremony and was told the story of how it came to be planned as it was by Walter’s daughter. Apparently, in discussions about his end-of-life arrangements, Walter suggested they throw a party. And sure enough, a beautiful ballroom was filled with Walter’s friends and family, retelling stories, and enjoying each other’s company, wrapped in the memory of a mutual friend and loved one. But Walter was always fond of saying that people should be pleased, but not satisfied. Over the years I knew him, I came to understand more fully what he meant by that nice turn of a phrase. And so, while Walter was pleased by the prospect of a party, he wasn’t satisfied. That’s why he asked his family to end the party with a concert – and to throw open the concert hall doors to the veterans he had so deeply respected and supported over the years of his life. It was a wonderful, generous gesture from a wonderful, generous human being.
But I don’t write today about Walter. I share that story as an introduction because it reminds me of how deeply touched many of us are by the sacrifice of the men and women who volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces. As we watch the horror of today’s war in Ukraine, we are reminded of the power of volunteers fighting for something they hold dear – dearer than their own life, perhaps. Indeed, volunteer militias in the colonies were the origins of today’s United States Armed Forces. To volunteer to risk one’s life for a cause, for others, captures our attention, in a unique way – because we know deep within each of us it is a unique sacrifice. When we see that sacrifice being made on our behalf, I think it stirs a desire to express our thanks in any number of ways.
Last year, I wrote about a young veteran who had been killed after his return home. I focused on him as an example of how our veterans deserve our best upon their return because we owe them for their sacrifices. My focus this year, as we seem all too close to the precipice of war in so many locations around our planet, is to call our attention to the men and women who volunteer to keep us safe in an increasingly dangerous world. Whether they serve in a combat zone or do their part in a different way, they have sworn an oath to take the ultimate individual risk. And in response to their commitment, I think we come to share something with them – a desire for peace. General Douglas McArthur said, “The soldier above all prays for peace.” I’ve had the honor of attending many CSU Army and Air Force ROTC commissioning ceremonies over the 2+ decades I’ve served on CSU’s Cabinet. I’ve rarely left one with a fully dry eye, and never without having offered up a prayer that these young men and women will serve in peace, noting that perhaps their service is the most powerful assurance of peace that we have yet to find as human beings.
A colleague of mine has, for all the years I’ve sent out a Veterans Day message, reminded me of the connection of this day (Armistice Day) to peace. He’s right, I think in at least a few different ways in that belief. And that brings me back to Walter Scott.
As we pause to honor our veterans for what they’ve given (and what they have risked giving), I’m grateful we have women and men who are willing to make that sacrifice. But unless every one of them returns home safely to receive our gratitude, none of us should be satisfied.
To our veterans and their families on this day of honor, thank you.
Tony Frank, Chancellor
This message was included in Chancellor Frank’s November newsletter. Click here to subscribe to the Chancellor’s monthly letter.