Notre Dame has long history with ROTC, military

While both Notre Dame and Navy were gearing up for Saturday’s game, the different branches of the Notre Dame ROTC took part in a Veterans Day tradition that taps into the very foundation of our nation.

Under a watchful eye and a snow white sky, the next leaders of our nation protect our freedoms while honoring the fallen.

“I come from a long standing tradition of thousands of officers who have been commissioned by the Navy out of Notre Dame and it's something that's very special,” said Carissa Baldwin, Midshipman First Class Navy ROTC.

Baldwin is also a senior at Notre Dame.

We spoke with her on her last shift standing guard over Stonehenge.

“It’s the staple of the Notre Dame experience for me. It’s in hundreds of pictures that I’ve taken, and it’s in the walk on my way to classes. It’s not even known to a lot of students to be a war memorial. It’s something I try to tell people while I’m on campus or when they ask about the vigil,” Baldwin said.

The vigil lasts for 24 hours and has been a tradition on every Veterans Day since September 11, 2001.

No matter what weather Mother Nature may bring, over 200 members of the Notre Dame ROTC stand at attention under the stone arches of the Clarke Memorial Fountain.

“The genesis of the Clarke Memorial Fountain, which is now called by many Stonehenge, was dedicated by John Shurr and Maude Clarke to honor John who was an Army officer and all those who served in WWII, Vietnam and Korea. More specifically it’s there to recognize for their ultimate sacrifice. There were over 500 Notre Dame students and alumni that died during those wars,” said Regan Jones, Director of Military and Veterans Affairs for Notre Dame.

Founded in 1842, it was only a few years later that Notre Dame had continental cadets training next to the log chapel as they prepared to fight with the union army in the civil war.

“You think about the deep, rich history. The commitment to our nation's values. The commitment to our military,” Jones said.

God. Country. Notre Dame - a phrase that has become synonymous with the university.

“It was actually built as the east entrance to memorialize those who served 101 years ago during WWI. We had hundreds of men at that time, who served in WWI. We had two that became Notre Dame presidents, who served as chaplains in WWI, who were responsible for the creation and dedication of the Basilica door ‘God, Country, Notre Dame.’ It’s part of the fabric of the university. It’s who we are,” Jones said.

The marriage of those three words wouldn’t hold more true than during World War II.

“In the 40s when Notre Dame students all went to war, Navy saved Notre Dame when they came in and created an officer training unit here on campus which is really the beginning of our ROTC program,” Jones said.

First starting with the Navy and now serving all branches of our military, Notre Dame has continued its dedication to service.

That’s why since 2001 students with the ROTC are determined to care for this memorial under the dome.

“Sometimes it's a wonderful place to stop and really reflect on what I have happening in my future, It reminds me that there were other people that went before me that gave their lives for me to be here,” Baldwin said. “I try to remind people that it’s incredibly important that we respect it. But it’s a happy thing too. But it was something that was put there to remember these people and how Notre Dame has been involved in the protection of our country but millions of other people that it represents.”

In the most extreme conditions our future standing with a steadfast stare, protecting our past with eyes gazed, locked on keeping our tomorrows safe.

“It draws attention to the monument and the testament to those who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice. It’s an opportunity to highlight them and to elevate them and pause for a minute and help everyone remember. And we can never forget,” Jones said.

Notre Dame is one of only a few universities to offer the ROTC for all major branches of the military.

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