Campus Honors Veterans in Holiday Observance

Missing Man Ceremony photo

President Michael Benson held up a national Veterans of Foreign Wars magazine clipping he received in the mail. The article extolled Eastern Kentucky University’s commitment to helping military veterans achieve their educational dreams, and a handwritten note on the clipping said simply, “EKU, be proud.”

Benson didn’t recognize the name or Arkansas address, but a subsequent online search revealed the sender to be a member of Merrill’s Marauders, a legendary Army unit that fought in the Southeast Asian theatre of World War II.

“That he would take the time to write me and commend us for how we treat veterans means a great deal to me,” Benson said, “and should mean a great deal to the University.”

The University, which has earned numerous national honors in recent years for its efforts to assist veterans, ranks No. 2 nationally among four-year schools in the 2015 Military Times “Best for Vets” survey. It has finished either first or second in the rankings four of the past five years.

Benson was speaking at EKU’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, when the campus community pauses to honor all those who have served in the nation’s military. The ceremony itself lasted 30 minutes, but a day-long observance also included members of the campus community reading the names of fallen soldiers as part of the National Roll Call Reading of Names.

EKU’s 12th president reminded the large audience assembled in Memorial Plaza of the “serious and solemn” occasion, a “day to pause and reflect … on those who gave their lives and also those who are still with us.”

Benson followed Col. (Ret.) Eugene Palka, interim executive director for retention and graduation at EKU, to the podium.

An emotional Palka said he was “proud to have worn the (Army) uniform for more than 38 years, active duty for more than 33 years,” adding that he would be “forever grateful” to his fellow veterans.

EKU VETS Club President Michael Bush, who served as emcee for the event, captured the mood of the event when he declared, “The first thing I thought of today was the three buddies I lost” in combat.

The early afternoon ceremony also included a Missing Man Ceremony conducted by members of Vietnam Veterans of America Post 166, a moment of silence followed by a rifle salute by members of the Madison County Honor Veterans Guard, and more.

Published on November 12, 2014

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