Mercer students, faculty, alumni and community members gathered in Penfield Hall to celebrate Veteran’s Day last Friday.
This year, the annual ceremony put on by Mercer Veteran’s Association was incorporated into Homecoming week, a decision MVA president Gene Mitchell was very pleased with.
Due to the timing of the event, the organization had the unique opportunity to have Lieutenant Colonel John Taylor, a Mercer alumnus from the Class of ’61, speak at the ceremony, Mitchell said. Taylor was ‘on campus to celebrate his class’s 50th reunion.
We were excited to have his perspective as an alumni and a veteran. Homecoming week also gave us the unique opportunity to reflect on the relationship between veterans and Mercer University and to demonstrate its long history,” said Mitchell. “Lastly, we were fortunate enough to have current student show their respect for not only veterans of Mercer’s campus but also of the past and present.”
The ceremony opened with a welcome delivered by Mercer President William Underwood, the posting of the colors by Mercer ROTC members and an invocation by SGA President Jordan Locke.
This year’s event featured two speakers: Lieutenant Colonel John Taylor, a veteran of the U.S. Army, and Major General Robert H. McMahon, Commander, Warner Robins Air Logistics Center.
Taylor credited Mercer with preparing him for a career with the Army that he did not originally intend to have. “I think that’s what Mercer is all about. It prepares leaders for a lifetime of service,” he said.
McMahon spoke about the calling men and women in the armed services feel to serve their country. “Nearly 236 years has taught us that the world is not safe,” he said. “Yet each time there is a new threat and our nation calls us, there is somewhere a man or a woman to raise a hand and say ‘here I am…send me.’”
Mitchell believes Mercer was fortunate to have McMahon speak at the ceremony. “I hope this represents a future relationship between Warner Robins Air Force Base and Mercer University on a diversity of issues, including the education of veterans,” he said.
The ceremony concluded with Mitchell speaking on his perspective as a Marine Corps veteran and recognizing members of the Mercer community who have served or are close to those who have served. He specifically recognized Leigh Ann Junod, whose husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan, and gave her flowers.
Mitchell said there are both practical and theoretical reasons for honoring veterans. Practically, he said, our country has recognized over the years that something must be done to ensure the success of those fighting for our freedom when they return.
“Theoretically speaking, nations have always honored their heroes,” Mitchell said, “and America is no different because we as a nation realize that the sacrifice of those who put their lives on the line for the safety and security of all of us is one that mere gratitude does not accomplish.”