At a time of deep divisions in the country, Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson didn’t have to look far to find heroes at a campus Veterans Day celebration.
Looking to his left, he pointed to a group of uniformed EKU ROTC cadets, young men and women who will soon join the ranks of all those who have sacrificed for their country in years past.
“This,” he said, “is the future of America. Regardless of political persuasion, religious beliefs or orientation, we are one nation under God, and we’ve got to pull together. I can promise you we are in good hands.”
The well-attended ceremony on a sun-lit autumn afternoon also featured remarks from Sixth District Congressman Andy Barr and the always moving Missing Man ceremony, conducted by members of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Post 1066.
“There is no greater service than to risk your own life for your country,” Barr said. “It’s inspiring to spend time with our veterans and learn about their service. All their experiences are important reminders of the debt we owe servicemen and servicewomen.”
Barr said the nation needs to remain committed to ending veteran homelessness and improving health care for veterans.
“May we never forget the eternal debt we owe these individuals for the freedoms we enjoy today.”
An avid newspaper reader since childhood, Benson said he often scans obituaries, even of those he never knew. He unfolded an old clipping from a Utah newspaper and read for the crowd a stirring account of a veteran’s valor on the battlefield.
“We are served by people who, without a lot of fanfare or notoriety, do amazing things.”
Also at the ceremony, a representative of the local VVA post announced that the chapter had been renamed the Charles B. (Bracelen) Flood Memorial Chapter in honor of the late Richmond author and veteran, whose many books included “The War of the Innocents,” which chronicled his experiences as an embedded war correspondent in Vietnam. It was also announced that his wife, Kathy, was made a lifetime associate member of the VVA.
Last year, a study and collaboration space in the University’s John Grant Crabbe Main Library was dedicated in honor of the author, who often used the facility for his research.
EKU Vets President Spec. Shelby Jones opened the Veterans Day ceremony, held at Memorial Plaza on campus, and performed the national anthem. Rev. Robert Blythe, long-time city commissioner, gave the invocation and benediction.
The crowd also joined in a national moment of silence.
EKU continues to earn national recognition for its efforts to help veterans reach their educational goals. Recently, the University was named by Victory Media as a Military Friendly School for the seventh consecutive year. The designation is based on six factors: academic policies and compliance, admissions and orientation, culture and commitment, financial aid assistance, graduation and career, and military support and retention. Also, the University remains among the nation’s leading schools in the Military Times’ “Best for Vets” rankings – five times in the past seven years, it has ranked third or higher among four-year schools.
For more information about services available at EKU for veterans and their dependents, contact the EKU Office of Military and Veterans Affairs at 859-622-2345 or EKUVeteransAffairs@eku.edu or visit va.eku.edu.