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On Veterans Day, ROTC Cadets Reflect

11/17/11
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ROTC cadets, from left, Robert Olp, David Willner and Anne Spencer before last Friday's Veterans Day Service. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Reid Oslin | Chronicle Staff

Published: Nov. 17, 2011

As the slow, mournful notes of “Taps” drifted across campus at the conclusion of the University’s 11th annual Veterans Day service last Friday, several senior class members of Boston College’s Army ROTC unit voiced anticipation and commitment to their own approaching military duty.

“The military has been a part of my family’s history,” says David Willner, an International Studies major and Rhodes Scholarship candidate whose father is a retired career Army officer. “I grew up in an Army family, living on Army bases. I have always respected the organization and seen the positive impact that it has on pretty much everyone who enters it.

“To me, there’s just something very welcoming about the United States Army in addition to the professional development that it gives you,” says Willner, who currently resides in Powder Springs, Ga., after living on Army posts in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Germany, among others, while growing up. “The Army gives you a great opportunity to do all sorts of things like travel and working with soldiers – which I hear is one of the best jobs in the world – as a platoon leader, which is something I hope to be in the near future.”

After he is commissioned as a second lieutenant during Commencement Weekend in May, Willner will join the Army’s engineer branch, where he expects to lead soldiers assigned to clear explosives and landmines from roads and travel routes in Afghanistan and other global hotspots.

Anne Spencer, a psychology and sociology major from Frederick, Md., who has also been nominated for a coveted Rhodes Scholarship honor by the University, will serve in the Army’s Medical Service Corps after receiving the gold shoulder bars of an officer. “I have always been a little independent,” says Spencer, the youngest of three children, “doing things my own way and making it work.”

Spencer says few members of her family had any military connection and were “a little shocked” at her decision to join ROTC in her freshman year. “But over the years they have come to understand my commitment and I think I have been able to impress them as to why I feel like I need to serve.

“It’s been a new experience for me learning to be a leader, learning to be in the military and learning the ins-and-outs of a community that is really not parallel to anything else,” she says.

Biology major Robert Olp of Wheaton, Ill., has received a delay of his active duty commitment to attend medical school. He will serve as an Army doctor after he attains his medical degree.

“It will be a few years before I actually go on active duty,” says Olp, one of six children in his family. “As I have gone through the years, I have gotten quite comfortable with the [Army] program and liked the people that we were with. While I know it is only ROTC so far, some of the things that you go through – like spending weekends out in the rain and cold – help you develop a special bond with the people that you serve with. I think any Army veteran will tell you that and I think it is a big part of being in the Army.”

While the financial incentives of an ROTC scholarship were helpful, Olp says, “four years later, when you look back on it, it’s only a small fraction of the benefits. All of the experiences I have been through vastly outweigh the financial assistance. I’m really happy that I joined and excited for the future.”

Twelve current seniors are scheduled to be commissioned through the Boston College Army ROTC program in May.