Barry McNamara  |   Published November 11, 2019

Helping Shape the Military

In Veterans Day ceremony remarks, Brig. Gen. Chris Lawson ’88 says liberal arts colleges can help influence U.S. military.
  • Monmouth College’s Color Guard retires the colors at the close of the Veterans Day ceremony Monday in the Veterans Memorial Great Room.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – The keynote speaker at a Veterans Day event at Monmouth College said institutions like Monmouth will play an important role in shaping the military of the future.

CHRIS LAWSON '88: ?Americans are movie stars around the world.? CHRIS LAWSON '88: “Americans are movie stars around the world.”Brig. Gen. Chris Lawson spoke from experience, as he began his distinguished military career while a student at Monmouth, completing the ROTC training program before graduating in 1988.

“Americans are movie stars around the world,” he said at a Monday afternoon ceremony in the Veterans Memorial Great Room of the Center for Science and Business. “We’re recognized as being different, as protectors of the free world. That’s a tremendous responsibility, and one which we should not take lightly. We are the police officer of the global commons on the high seas. There’s no rule of law there. In space tomorrow, we’ll have the same challenge.”

Lawson said the changing nature of the behavior of war – which will include an emphasis on cyber warfare, currency manipulation and clandestine efforts – will make a liberal arts education even more valuable.

“It’s important to get an education from institutions like Monmouth College,” said Lawson, who recently retired from the military. “There’s a complexity to these things, and I’m deeply grateful for the well-rounded education I received here and for the experiences I had here. It means the world to me to be here today.”

A global perspective

An important part of Lawson’s military career has been service in other countries, giving him a global perspective that is increasingly necessary. He said military service provides an opportunity “to see some things that change your life.”

One example he cited was seeing how Iraqis reacted when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

“Here’s an African American man with an Islamic name being elected president of the United States,” said Lawson. “For Americans, maybe we think sometimes that democracy is just another form of government. But in Iraq, there was cheering in the streets of Baghdad. Their reaction was more like ‘This democracy stuff works.’

“It’s my belief that the Arab Spring that followed shortly after (in 2010) was inspired by what they saw happen in America. Our democracy means a whole lot to a whole bunch of other people around the world.”

While “patriotism” is an important word on Veterans Day, Lawson said that service to one’s country is just part of the experience for members of the military.

“A service member will know that they serve for their brothers and sisters they serve with,” he said. “It’s not necessarily about country. Military service is about people.”

Military miracles

Lawson shared three “miracles” from his military career, including an early indoctrination into the importance of what service could mean while he was on a medical mission in Bolivia in 1988. There, he witnessed a lifeless child being brought into his medical unit and walking out on her own after being administered antibiotics and fluids.

He also recounted two harrowing experiences involving enemy fire, including a 104-mm rocket that landed on the roof of his building in Iraq in 2007 and shook it like an earthquake but did not explode.

“When your number comes up, your number comes up, but that wasn’t my day,” he said.

Six years later, in 2013, an improvised explosive device blew a 50-meter hole in the perimeter not far from him, which allowed 13 suicide bombers to infiltrate the base. He called it simple “luck” that he was not killed, either by the enemy or by friendly fire as he dashed around the base to reach the emergency operations center.

The event was organized by Monmouth staff members Andy Davis, Marnie Dugan and Nicole Trego. Davis and Trego are veterans.

“On this day, we are commemorating the service of all veterans,” said Trego, who handled the emcee duties. “We remember how men and women set aside their civilian pursuits to serve their nation’s cause, defending the freedom of mankind and preserving our precious American heritage.”

Of military service, she said, “Out of blood and sweat we learned of purpose, sacrifice, tolerance, bravery and discipline. These are solid foundation stones upon which a great nation is built.”

The ceremony concluded with a solemn performance of “Taps” by award-winning Monmouth trumpeter Nick Thomas ’21 of Elmhurst, Ill.

Back to News & Events

Did you know?

  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers several international trips each year during 2-week Scots Terms in January and May. Recently students have traveled to Botswana, Greece, Scotland, Japan, and more. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="" target="_blank">Scots Term</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an active Pipe & Drum Band. Each year on Scholar’s Day in April the bagpipers wake students up at 6:00 a.m. by playing in the residence halls!</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/music/pipe-band/" target="_blank">Pipe Band</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We’re no stranger to winning. Last year the Fighting Scots won Midwest Conference championships in Football, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Basketball and Men’s Track and Field. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="" target="_blank">Fighting Scots</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 98% of Monmouth graduates were employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/wackerle-center/career-services/" target="_blank">Career Preparation</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College covers the cost for all current students to get a U.S. passport. Unlock access to over 198 different countries! We’ll even help with the paperwork :)</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/study-abroad/" target="_blank">Study Abroad</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p><strong>Monmouth College is the birthplace of the women’s fraternity movement. Pi Beta Phi, the first such collegiate women’s organization, was founded at Monmouth in 1867. It was followed three years later by Kappa Kappa Gamma. The two pioneering organizations today boast a total of 275 active chapters nationwide.</strong></p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/student-life/sororities-fraternities/" target="_blank">Sororities & Fraternities</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College offers unique academic minors in Global Public Health and Global Food Security for students who want to use their education to address global challenges. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-public-health/" target="_blank">Global Public Health</a></li><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/global-food-security/" target="_blank">Global Food Security</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is proudly test optional. Applicants may choose whether or to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission and scholarship consideration. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/admission/apply/test-optional/" target="_blank">Test Optional</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> 99% of Monmouth students received some type of scholarship or financial assistance.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/types-of-aid/scholarships/" target="_blank">Scholarships</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We offer a certified Peace Corps Preparation program that gives Peace Corps bound graduates a leg up in the application process.</p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/academics/peace-corps-prep/" target="_blank">Peace Corps Prep</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College has an educational garden and 6.7 acre farm. Students grow and harvest fruits and vegetables to sell at the local farmer’s market. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="" target="_blank">Garden & Farm</a></li></ul></div></aside>