Luann Barndt, a U.S. Coast Guard Academy alumna and Coast Guard retiree, spoke about the importance of women in the military during the Friday morning ceremony. Charlie Lee | Senior Staff Photographer
This post was written by reporter Leah Potter.
Members of the GW community honored veterans and current military members at the annual Veteran’s Day wreath-laying ceremony in Kogan Plaza Friday morning.
The GW NROTC Color Guard began the ceremony with the presentation of the colors, while the GW Troubadours sang the National Anthem to a crowd of about 30 people.
Attendees also heard from University President Steven Knapp and members of GW’s military community, which includes more than 1,700 veterans, ROTC and military family members.
Here are some of the highlights:
1. Dedication to veterans
The ceremony marked the end of the University’s veterans awareness week, which included other events like service projects with local elementary schools and a career services workshop.
Knapp highlighted some key moments in the University’s history of dedication to veterans, like becoming the first university in D.C. to join the Yellow Ribbon benefits program in April 2009.
The program, created by the Post-9/11 GI Bill, currently supports more than 1,800 veterans and their family members through the current GI Bill at GW, Knapp said.
Knapp credited the University’s veteran services program, GW VALOR, with helping to create a veteran-friendly environment.
“Two years ago, we sort of formalized the veterans service being offered through the University by launching operation GW VALOR,” Knapp said. “We are striving to be one of the nation’s most veteran friendly institutions.”
GW was ranked No. 31 on Military Times’ list of military-friendly universities this year.
2. Education after service
Adam Popp, a student veteran and the 2016 Pat Tillman Scholar, spoke about his experience pursuing a master’s degree after 12 years of military service.
Popp joined the Air Force in 1997 and served for 12 years before retiring as an improvised explosive device technician. After 19 years of working in the military community and earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology, Popp is currently pursuing his master’s degree in the hopes of becoming a rehabilitation counselor focusing on veterans with disabilities.
In addition to studying at GW, Popp holds positions with the Wounded Warriors Foundation and Team Red White and Blue and has earned an array of service medals.
Popp said that while members of the military are diverse, they are unified by common strengths and values.
“These service members we honor today come from all walks of life,” Popp said. “But they share several fundamental qualities. They possess courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty, and integrity – all the qualities needed to serve a cause much greater than ourselves.”
Popp also honored Pat Tillman, the namesake for Popp’s scholarship, who put his football career on hold in order to serve his country in the military.
“We weren’t selected because of our previous achievements, but rather our future potential to impact the community,” Popp said. “I know this potential exists in every veteran, and we challenge each of you to use the tools and skills the military gave you to continue to make an impact on your community.”
3. Women in service
Luann Barndt, a U.S. Coast Guard Academy alumna and Coast Guard retiree, discussed the progress women have made in the military with respect to equality and leadership. After earning her bachelor’s degree in science and three graduate degrees, Barndt is working on her dissertation in GW’s executive leadership program in human organizational learning.
Barndt said that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the decision to allow women to attend military academies in the U.S.
“Over the last 40 years, women have continued to make strides, and we’ve celebrated many firsts since that decision to allow women to attend military academies,” Barndt said. “And we continue to conquer those barriers as recently as 2015, with the first women to earn the coveted Army Ranger title – renowned as not being for the weak, or faint hearted.”
Barndt shared the story of two Coast Guard veterans that holds significant meaning to her, the first being Douglas Munro, who was the first and only member of the Coast Guard to receive the medal of honor.
Upon visiting Douglas Munro’s gravesite, Barndt and her family also noticed the gravesite of Edith Munro, Douglas’ mother. Barndt decided to research her story, and discovered that shortly after Douglas Munro received the medal of honor, Edith Munro accepted an appointment in the women’s reserve SPARS in 1943.
Though she was two decades older than the other 20-year-old SPARS that reported to the Coast Guard academy for training, Edith Munro led the way in training as well as in her service, Barndt said.
“As a Gold Star mother, she transformed her loss into significant service, and continued to serve the Coast Guard for over 50 years beyond her active duty spar service.” Barndt said. “So as a proud Coast Guard veteran, and more importantly a military mother, I’m so very grateful for Lt. Edith Munro, and everyone like her that blazed the trail for those of us who chose the non traditional military career path.”