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Miguel Monteclaro knows just what Memorial Day means. He has served at hundreds of military funerals and has given his life to the service of his country through the U.S. Army.
Watch his speech from the 2021 Scholarship Ball at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
“I was a given the opportunity to work with Military Funeral Honors during a couple of my summers in Topeka,” he said. “In my time here, I have been present at hundreds of military funerals, from firing parties to folding and presenting the American Flag to grieving families.”
It’s tough work, but he knows he has it easy at those events.
“President Minnis asked what I think about when I stand at attention at a funeral service, he added. “A good mindset to have is to remind yourself that the pain you’re feeling now is nothing to the pain of loss in the families you are currently serving. Most of these services are for those I did not know, but a few of them were for friends that I did know. Regardless, these experiences left me a changed person.
Monteclaro said the mission of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, helped make him who he is.
“This mission of community, faith and scholarship is so well lived here it becomes a part of students’ lives. It became a part of mine. All of this is embodied with me when I serve high masses on Sundays,” he said.
He said Benedictine College came to him at a turning point in his life when “Three things happened in a few weeks time in 2016 that changed my life forever.”
First, he said, his family became U.S. citizens in October. “I will never forget seeing my parents raise their right hands, taking the oath of citizenship in front of my sister and me,” he said.
Second, “a week later, I would raise my own right hand to enlist into the United States Army. Since I was a young boy, I learned to love my country, and what greater way to show my love than to answer the call to service?”
Third, he said, “I received my letter of acceptance into Benedictine.”
He saw the college’s mission in a dynamic way.
“The most captivating thing I experienced here was the sense of community among the students,” he said.
But the faith life was critical.
“The presence of the Abbey has allowed me to develop many close relationships with monks and priests, and to be able to receive the sacraments regularly and receive spiritual direction and counsel has been something that I have sometimes taken for granted,” he said. “Their good nature, disciplined routine, and smiling attitude of service have been something that I would brag about to my friends and family at home, even my family in the Philippines.”
Last, he said of the scholarship at Benedictine College, “you learn to think rather than what to think,” and “I have not known a single professor or faculty member in my time here who has not offered their services to advocate on my behalf or to act as a reference for me when I search for a longterm career.”
He was on campus during a tough time — and saw how the mission affected his peers.
“When the COVID-19 Pandemic arose, I witnessed so many fellow students step up to offer their help. For my part, as a cadet and Guardsman, I was on orders to set up COVID test centers in Kansas, and spent a good part of the summer delivering Personal Protection Equipment to hospitals and government locations all over the state.”
He ended by sharing advice from “My friend, Medal of Honor winner Colonel Roger Donlon.”
Colonel Donlon, in turn, credits his Filipina wife with the advice: “Who we are is God’s gift to us. Who we become is our gift to God.”
Monteclaro concluded by telling donors: “I thank each of you for being part of God’s gift in my life, and in the lives of so many Ravens, and I want you to know that we intend to give that gift back.”