Gilberto Burbante said he, like many other veterans, has asked himself why he joined the military.

The Marine was deployed to Iraq three times and was in Firdos Square in Baghdad when Saddam Hussein's statue fell.

But Burbante said his family and Marine friends were worth the struggles and sacrifices.

"My brothers shed their blood, and many lost their very lives, so that we can be a free people," he said. "Freedom: We as Americans are very familiar with the word. When I hear that word, I can't help but think of its cost. That cost is paid by the sacrifices of young Americans that have bravely served without question throughout the ages."

Burbante, Nicholls State University's coordinator of veterans services, spoke at the school's Veterans Day program today.

His comrade, Chris Castillo, served as the guest speaker.

Castillo acknowledged the risks military members endure but said they go through it for their fellow Americans.

"We did it because we believe in our democracy. We believe in what our country stands for," he said. "We did it because we wanted to ensure that things like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 wouldn't happen again. And if they did, we wanted to make sure that we sent the message to those people that we wouldn't go quietly into the night, that we would not just roll over and allow our families to live with fear."

University President Bruce Murphy, who retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel, also spoke during the program.

Murphy said Veterans Day is about acknowledging men and women who exposed themselves to danger to defend their country and rights.

"Veterans have made a solemn pledge to themselves, to their comrades, to their country and to their god," he said. "We can do no less in honoring them."

Although speeches are one way to do that, Murphy said, better options include offering health policies and employment practices that meet veterans' needs and allow them to use their skills and knowledge.

"We here at Nicholls State University – and all institutions of higher learning – honor our veterans by openly welcoming them into the ranks of students, staff, faculty, maybe even presidents," he said.

-- Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or bridget.mire@dailycomet.com. Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.