A Washburn tradition for 25 years, the Veterans’ Day recognition at the Vietnam Memorial was a chance to remember and to say thank you for the nearly 100 people gathered on campus Friday afternoon.
A Blackhawk helicopter, flown by the Kansas Air National Guard, landed on the Memorial Union lawn minutes prior to a blessing, a prayer and a presentation of colors by Highland Park High School JROTC color guard.
“We don’t say thank you frequently enough,” said Washburn President Jerry Farley, as he introduced the School of Law’s dean. “We should be oh so grateful for that service.”
Thomas Romig, dean of the law school, is a retired Major General of the U.S. Army. Romig served as a judge advocate general. He spoke of the ties that bind all soldiers, all veterans and shared examples of America’s military as “a force for good. For liberty. For freedom. And for peace.”
He gave several examples, including this one: On a trip with members of his JAG corps to Srebrenitsa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 2003, Romig said, “We noticed an elderly woman get out of her car, walking toward us.” When she reached the small group, he said, “she grabbed each of our hands and said thank you, thank you, thank you.” The group learned through a translator that all of her male relatives had been killed in the 1995 massacre in her village and this was her first return. Through the translator she told them her trip back was only possible because the American military was there to protect everyone.
There are nearly 300 Washburn students currently using the GI Bill to help fund their education, according to Student Services.
In addition to reading the names of several faculty and staff members and other veterans with ties to Washburn, a balloon release recognized veterans and their families impacted by Agent Orange, chemicals used during the war.
The flag given to the family of Randy Sanders was raised for the ceremony. Sanders died from complications of illnesses related to his Agent Orange exposure. This was the fifth year of an Agent Orange recognition balloon release on campus. It is organized by Judy and Bill Pfeifer.
Music was shared throughout the program. The Standing Bear Intertribal Brotherhood sang a Veterans’ Honor Song in the Ponca language as they drummed. Amazing Grace was performed on bag pipes, two buglers played Taps with an echo and Aaron Springer, a Washburn senior majoring in vocal performance, sang the national anthem.
“Take an opportunity this day and other days to thank a veteran for their service on behalf of the American people,” Romig said. “Always support our service members and their families.”