Each of the last several years, the largest gathering in Abilene on Veterans Day is in Moody Coliseum, where the 11 a.m. Chapel time is set aside to honor men and women whose military service and sacrifice have defined our freedom. Last Monday, Nov. 12, was Abilene Christian University’s annual tribute.
As narrator Grant Boone (’91) explained to the large crowd:
“Nov. 11, the date on which we traditionally observe this holiday, holds a deeply symbolic association that is sometimes overlooked in our jaded and forgetful era. On this day in 1918, an armistice was signed that ended the First World War – a conflict that decimated an entire generation of young men. The cessation of hostilities took effect at this very hour – 11 a.m. – on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
In remembrance of this event, many countries in Europe honor their war dead on Nov. 11. In the United States, however, the focus of Veterans Day is slightly different. This is a holiday that honors not only those who died in battle, but all our nation’s veterans – particularly those still living. On this day, we honor any and all who have served, in war or in peacetime, acknowledging that the weight of their sacrifice is not only measured in blood, but also in courage, commitment, physical and mental hardship, and long periods of time spent away from family.
It is well worth remembering that Veterans Day is commemorated on the date of an armistice – a day of peace, when combatants laid down arms after four of the most brutal years the world had ever known. This meaning carries over into our tribute today. The men and women we honor did not – and do not – revel in aggression or conquest. Rather, they toil – and hope – for peace. They serve in anticipation of a future time when wars will be no more, when swords are beaten into plowshares and the lion lies down with the lamb. It is their spirit of service that we gratefully honor in today’s program.”
A video segment profiled electrician’s mate 2nd Class Lonnie Milstead (’49), an Abilene native who served as ship’s electrician aboard LST 177 during World War II. Also recognized was specialist Chris Rodriguez, a current ACU student who serves in the Army, and 1st Lt. Mayme Churchill, who was a nurse in the 8th Evacuation Hospital that treated more than 50,000 servicemen and servicewomen injured in World War II. She was awarded the Bronze Star, a distinction she shared with her late husband, longtime ACU faculty member Capt. F.M. “Doc” Churchill, whom she met in the service and to whom she was married for 57 years.
ACU’s A Cappella Chorus, directed by Dr. Paul Piersall, performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “In Remembrance,” while the Grand Chorus performed “A Tribute to the Armed Services.”
The large American flag used for years in ACU’s Opening Assembly serves as a backdrop for the memorable event that has quickly become an Abilene tradition. Alumni and other friends from around the world watched the tribute via live stream. Thanks to Steve Butman for this photographic look at the 2012 tribute.