St. Joseph’s College honored the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on Tuesday during an annual remembrance ceremony in front of SJC Long Island’s O’Connor Hall.
Director of the Office of Military and Veterans Services Erin D’Eletto spoke out to a large gathering of students, faculty and staff during the ceremony, which saw what has become the traditional changing of the campus’ American flag.
“The changing of our flag represents the passing of another safe and successful year of study and service, and also symbolizes our renewed commitment to College, community and country,” D’Eletto said. “Thank you all for gathering with us on this solemn 17th anniversary as we never forget the lives we lost, as we acknowledge the grief of their surviving loved ones, as we recognize the heroic efforts that saved many lives, and as we honor our veterans and service members who have and who continue to protect us from further harm.”
Gold Star Parents
Guest speakers at this year’s ceremony included Gold Star Parents Michelle and Bill McNaughton, who lost their son Staff Sergeant James McNaughton in Iraq in 2005.
Mr. and Mrs. McNaughton are both retired NYPD who served during the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Mrs. McNaughton is the former president of the Long Island chapter of the American Gold Star Mothers (AGSM), as well as former president of the Department of New York AGSM. Mr. McNaughton is a United States Army veteran and an employee at Calverton National Cemetery. Their son James served in the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Reserve and as an NYPD officer. He volunteered for his second deployment to Iraq in 2004 as an Army Reservist.
“We say Jimmy died doing what he loved,” Mrs. McNaughton said through tears. “If everybody can die doing what they love, they’ve had a good life. My personal motto is to never forget our past, present and future veterans. I am the voice for those that can no longer speak. I’m there to support those that need a voice and for those that haven’t found their voice.”
Mr. and Mrs. McNaughton founded the James D. McNaughton Foundation in honor of their beloved son. Part of the raised funds are used for education scholarships and awarded to Centereach High School students (James’ alma mater) and the Northport PTSD Veterans Association.
“The American people came together during 9/11, and I’ll never forget that. Never,” Mr. McNaughton said. “George Patton’s got a quote that I like to steal from him. He says, ‘We shouldn’t mourn these men. Rather, we should thank God these men lived.’ And I truly believe that. These guys put on a uniform to go out and help our fellow men. Five and a half million Americans stepped up to the plate to help America out.”
Changing of the Flag
After a moment of silence honoring the victims of 9/11, Student Veterans of America (SVA) President Michael Esposito led his fellow SVA members in the changing of the American flag. SJC Long Island Campus Minister Cristian Murphy followed with a closing prayer.