HAVERHILL - Northern Essex Community College last week honored members of the college community who are military veterans.
Fifty Northern Essex students, faculty and staff attended a luncheon which was held in the Hartleb Technology Center on the Haverhill Campus.
Sponsored by Student Engagement and Veterans’ Services, the event featured three guest speakers: Phil Starks of North Andover, who graduated from Northern Essex in 1991 and is now an associate professor of biology at Tufts University; Jaime Melendez, director of veterans’ services, Lawrence, and Francisco Urena, a 2009 graduate of Northern Essex, who is the commissioner of veterans’ services for the city of Boston.
Jeff Williams, Northern Essex’s veteran’s services coordinator, opened the luncheon by reading a letter from Northern Essex President Lane Glenn who was unable to attend. Introducing himself as the son of a career Marine, who served two years of active duty in Vietnam, Glenn wrote “From those years living as a military son, I learned first-hand about honor, duty and discipline, and what it means to be part of this great country’s armed services…I am honored that you chose Northern Essex Community College as your institution of higher learning.”
An especially somber moment came when NECC student Justin Merced, who served in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, pointed out the Fallen Comrades Table which was set up in the corner of the room with dinner service set for one and a single red rose in a vase. Filled with symbolism, the Fallen Comrade Table acknowledges those killed in action, prisoners of war, and those listed as missing in action. After explaining each part of the table, Merced said “let us remember and never forget.”
A 1985 graduate of Andover High School, Starks enrolled in NECC’s liberal arts program after serving a number of years in the military. His Northern Essex studies were interrupted by a call to duty in the Gulf War. While stationed in the Middle East, Starks learned he was accepted to Harvard. He went on to earn a Ph.D. from Cornell University and is now teaching and doing research in the field of behavioral ecology.