The next time you are in Bapst and feel like procrastinating, resist the urge to scroll through social media or refresh your email. Don’t take a recreational trip to the vending machines. Instead, I recommend you reach for your coat and take a walk down Linden Lane.
I’ve walked by this plaque almost every week for the past three years, yet I only stopped to read it recently at the suggestion of a friend. “Proud Refrain” was written in 1942 by Boston College senior Thomas Heath in response to his classmates’ deployment during World War II. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor— over 5,052 Boston College students and alumni served in the war.
Heath, a biology major and eventual Dominican priest, was a student with a variety of interests, but he had a particular love of language. Interestingly, he wrote the “Proud Refrain” not out of personal experience, but as an act of solidarity with his classmates serving overseas. In the Fall 1991 issue of Boston College Magazine, Heath explained, “No, I was not on a troop ship or on an island in the Pacific or on my way to the European theater. I was home. But I was, I suppose, living in spirit with the BC men of the Class of ’42, including my brother John, who served on submarines in the South China Sea. The poem just poured out.”
The month of November is a time to honor the sacrifices made by our veterans and to be grateful for the blessings we take for granted. As a current Boston College senior, I cannot fathom the situation that Heath and the rest of the student body faced 75 years ago. My friends and I are currently searching for job and volunteer opportunities for next year; we dream of the cities we will inhabit come May and dread our inevitable separation from one another. Heath and his friends faced greater uncertainty; for them, their anxiety lay not in job location, but in which overseas battlefield they would be sent. They did not know whether they would see one another alive again, or if they would be reunited after death. I imagine that faith must have played an influential role in the lives of many who were deployed.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the sacrifices made by Heath and his classmates, and for the sacrifices that our troops continue to make to keep our country safe. I am grateful to live in a country that allows me to exercise my First Amendment rights and vote in free elections. Despite the many challenges that our country will continue to face in the future, I have hope that we will not abandon the pursuit of justice for all, especially the marginalized and forgotten.
I am also grateful for my family, who love and support me unconditionally. I am grateful for the sacrifices that my parents make to provide me and my siblings a college education—an opportunity only given to 7% of the world’s population. I am grateful for the professors, teaching assistants, staff, and facilities and dining hall workers who make my daily life at Boston College possible. Moments of academic struggle and success teach me humility and allow me to better appreciate the gifts I possess.
I am grateful for my friends, who offer me their contagious laughter, empathetic support, and zeal for life—for late nights studying in O’Neill, similarly late nights dancing in the mods, and afternoons running around the reservoir. I am grateful for moments where I forget myself and feel completely at home in the BC community—running the Red Bandana 5K, chanting at hockey games (sorry, BU), and attending the 10:15pm Mass in Lower.
Above all, I am grateful for my faith, which provides me the context to live my daily life— to prioritize gratitude, joy, forgiveness, hope, and above all, love. When I leave Bapst after writing this article, I will be greeted with the sight of the same “tower, bell, and tree” that inspired Heath nearly 75 years ago and countless of other Boston College graduates since. And for that, I am truly thankful.