Lt. Thomas and Meridith St. George, both 2003 graduates, present gifts for the Offertory to Thomasí father John í67, who served as deacon at last weekís Veterans Remembrance Mass and Ceremony. (Photo by Suzanne Camarata)
'I Am Proud of His Career'
Father, son alums share a legacy as ROTC grads and veterans
By Reid Oslin
John St. George '67 was happy when his son Thomas chose to attend his alma mater. But he never expected, nor did he try to convince, Thomas to follow in his military footsteps and join the University's Army ROTC program.
"My first pride is that he followed me to Boston College," said St. George. "But he had heard all of my old 'war stories' and talked to a lot of people, so Thomas understood the type of commitment that he was making by taking part in the ROTC program.
"I am proud of him for doing that; I am proud of him for serving his country; I am proud of his career; and I am proud of what he has been doing."
John and Thomas, who graduated in 2003, participated in the University's fifth annual Veterans' Remembrance Mass and Ceremony on Nov. 11, assisting Alumni Chaplain William C. McInnes, SJ, in celebrating the Veteran's Day Mass. The liturgical and military ceremony drew more than 200 military veterans and their families from the Boston College community - the largest group to take part in a Veteran's Day event on campus.
John St. George served as a deacon at the Mass while Thomas - recovering from wounds sustained in Afghanistan this summer - and his wife Meridith, also a member of the Class of 2003, brought the gifts to the altar for the Offertory celebration.
The Veteran's Day event also revealed some changing views of the American military that have evolved over the years, said the participants.
"It was different back then," recalled John St. George, who was commissioned as an Army infantry officer during commencement week in 1967 and served three years of active duty tours in Germany and Vietnam. "The military back then did not get the same respect and honor that the present soldiers are getting," he said, recalling the widespread protests and demonstrations from the anti-war activists of the day.
"Back then, the military was seen by some as doing 'dirty work' somewhere instead of people realizing how much good [the military] does for the country and how much it protects the country," he said.
Since his discharge from active duty in 1970, John St. George has worked in the health care and financial administration field. In addition to his professional calling, he was ordained as a Catholic deacon in 1983 and works with parishes in the Diocese of Manchester, NH.
Thomas St. George said he had wanted to be military flyer ever since he saw the aviation movie "Top Gun" as a youngster. Following graduation and commissioning from Boston College, he qualified for Army Aviation School in Alabama, where he learned to fly the Army's newest high-tech helicopter gunship, the Apache Longbow.
Thomas was assigned to the Army's elite 11th Aviation Regiment in Germany and in March of this year his unit was ordered to duty in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
On July 29, his helicopter crashed while on a training mission. He was evacuated from the crash site by a Special Forces Team and taken to Baghram Army Hospital with severe head and internal injuries. From there, he was transferred to military hospitals in Germany, Washington, DC, and Richmond, Va., for treatment.
Since October, Thomas and Meridith have been living in Needham while his recovery continues.
"I remember BC's first Veteran's Day ceremony back in 2001," Thomas said, "and of course patriotism was very big back then, but I always held this ceremony to be very dear to me. I have never considered myself to be a hero. Sure, you see modern war on television, and when I got commissioned, I figured that I would eventually be deployed. But it wasn't until I finished my basic course that I realized, 'I'm really going over there.' That's when it really hit home.
"I never thought that I would be a combat veteran," Thomas said.
Thomas expects to receive a medical discharge from the Army and plans to study for advanced degrees in history, with an eye toward teaching at the college level.
He has no regrets about choosing military service. "I decided that I wanted to do this Army thing," Thomas said. "It seemed like the right thing to do at the time, and it still is the right thing to do."