Campus, community come together to celebrate veterans

Veterans and members of the UNA community gather Nov. 11.

This year’s Veterans Day celebration Nov. 11 proved significant for many campus and local community members, especially after recognizing the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks only two months ago. But among the most significant was the involvement of the university as a whole.

UNA planned to have its traditional ceremony as it has during the last 15 years, but SGA, with the help of Lt. Col. Wayne Bergeron, discussed having a roll call honoring members of the military that have fallen since the 9/11 attacks.

Bergeron explained that the roll call is actually a national event suggested by Eastern Kentucky University at a veterans education symposium months ago. There are approximately 180 schools, with at least one for every state, that have done a similar roll call, but UNA was the first school in Alabama to sign on to take part.

“We really need to do this because every one of those names is a person; every one of them gave their lives defending what they believed in: freedom and our nation,” Bergeron said.

Laura Giles, SGA chief of staff, agreed that the Veterans Day ceremony was a unique event on UNA’s campus.

“The ceremony is always very good,” said Laura Giles, SGA chief of staff. “But I think the roll call gave a personal touch. Hopefully, we can continue to do that in the future.”

Roll call began a few minutes after 6 a.m. One by one, volunteers took turns reading off the names from 10-20 minutes each time. Volunteers arrived when needed and a few onlookers at a time stopped to listen to the names called aloud in front of the Memorial Amphitheater. This continued until 3:30 p.m.

“I am impressed to see students take at least five minutes to listen to the names called,” Giles said.

At 11 a.m., the roll call ceased for an hour in order for ceremony itself. The amphitheater was surrounded by audience members, which included ROTC members, retired military officers, their families, as well as a number of civilian students. Behind the audience was the Pride of Dixie Band, which played the National Anthem while UNA’s Chamber Choir sang with them.

In Zandarski’s speech, he referred to events in his life, of what he remembered about Veterans Day as a child and of the emotional yet confusing time it was for him then. He discussed his involvement in the Vietnam War, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He also informed the public of the what many men and women had to give so that they might have freedom.

“(Veterans) have never forsaken their oath to protect this nation from all threats foreign and domestic,” Zandarski said. “We thank them for their service.”

After Zandarski’s speech, the Pride of Dixie and the Chamber Choir gave a salute to the veterans in the audience by playing the service songs of each military branch while those in the audience stood, each according to which military branch he or she served. Then the tone seemed more solemn as everyone moved into a moment of silence and the band gently played Taps.

“It is good to give back to the people who fought for us,” said Undrea Randolph, who played in the Pride of Dixie Band at the ceremony.

There were many different viewpoints expressed by each individual present, but most expressed a similar view that United States servicemen deserved the respect of those that they have sacrificed their own freedom for.

“I look at (Veteran’s Day) with a great deal of respect of how a nation pays tribute to its servicemen,” said SGA Ralph Akalonu. “You don’t see that a lot from other countries.”

“I’m a newly commissioned lieutenant and have not yet been deployed,” said Lieutenant Joseph Thigpen from the ROTC, “so it shows the standard I must live up to from the example of these veterans.”