Whether waving flags with pomp and circumstance at the parade Monday or sitting in quiet reflection at one of Kansas State’s many war memorials, the local community has hosted and is hosting a number of opportunities for students to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in celebration of Veterans Day, which was Sunday.
Thinking about veterans who have passed through K-State at one point or another, Lt. Col. Peter Gray, professor of military science, talked about how men and women enlisting today are peers of students on campus.
“Personally, it’s enough for me if an individual pauses and just recognizes that all these individuals, all these veterans have become part of something greater than themselves and improved their communities,” Gray said.
At K-State, yearly enrollment averages about 2,000 military-affiliated students.
“It’s people students’ age who stood up and answered this call,” Gray said.
Sunday also marked the centennial Armistice Day.
“Veterans Day grew out of Armistice Day,” Gray said. “World War I ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, and it was centered around recognizing those individuals that served in World War I and has sort of grown to recognizing all veterans of all our wars for their patriotism, for their selfless service, for their love of country.”
About 105 active participants in K-State’s Army ROTC program will assist with Manhattan’s Veterans Day Parade on Monday. The public parade will begin at 9:30 a.m., trailing from Manhattan Town Center up Poyntz Avenue to 14th Street.
Gray said Manhattan’s Veterans Day parade is the largest in Kansas and has been for the past few years.
“We’re fortunate that we have an infantry division down the road that participates in it,” he said. “The community is super supportive and there’s lots of people out there.”
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Other individual efforts like taking time to reflect requires only a few moments of time for any student, setting aside political disagreements during this season, Gray said. War memorials on campus provide such space, for example.
“Go and take the time to learn about the memorials we have on campus, because we do have quite a few and there’s a lot of symbolism in some of them,” Gray said. “The World War II Memorial, it’s got the dog tag, which is historically accurate.”
Gray said soils from national and state military cemeteries are buried in its foundation, and the design honors those who served in the air, on land and at sea.
Cadet John Loyd, senior in construction science, said the World War II Memorial near McCain Auditorium is his favorite.
“Anywhere you’re walking on campus, you could easily stop by one,” Loyd said.
The hallways in Gen. Richard B. Myers Hall are also lined with tributes to K-State students and alumni.
“Out in our hallway, we have the ‘48 Fallen,’ which is the display for 48 K-State students who were killed during World War I,” Gray said.
“Down the hall, there’s a Distinguished Service Cross winner from Kansas State from World War II on D-Day,” Gray continued. “We have his actual medal from his family. That’s the second highest award for valor, right under the Congressional Medal of Honor, so there’s absolutely some history available. ”
Also on campus, All Faiths Chapel was the site of a memorial concert Sunday, selected to fall on the exact Armistice Day centennial.
Bryan Pinkall, Grammy-winning soloist and K-State professor of music, performed with faculty pianist Amanda Arrington in Sunday’s program, titled “Voices on the Western Front.” It featured songs, cinema, history and theatrics during the performance.
Elizabeth Handy, freshman in music education, said she gained more respect for veterans and learned from the personal stories of the composers during the concert.
“I think it really put into perspective how they truly did fight for us and they died for us,” Handy said. “When you focus on individual stories, it kind of pulls the emotion through more than it would just talking about veterans.”
Traci Taylor, center operations and programs manager at Fort Riley USO, said students can impact a veteran they know by sharing with current service members through volunteerism.
Several deployments will take place at the beginning of 2019, so volunteers are welcome to help coordinate events for spouses or children at that time, Taylor said.
Loyd said even a simple letter or thank you card goes a long way.
“If you know someone that’s a veteran or a phone call or text message to anybody, that just goes miles for a lot of people,” Loyd said.
Gray said as a veteran, he appreciates the community support and respect for the Army ROTC program.
“There are 279 guys like me across the nation, and everyone has a different situation, and we’re extremely lucky here at Kansas State,” he said. “We do not get any complications with the sorts of things we need to train our guys with because Kansas is just service-oriented.”