Eastern veterans reflected on their time in the military, and the university honored them at its annual Veterans Day ceremony.
Students, veterans and Charleston residents filled the seats of the Cougill Foyer in Old Main to hear speeches, the national anthem and prayers for veterans.
The ROTC Panther Battalion Color Guard was in attendance in blue dress uniforms to present the flags of the United States and the state of Illinois.
Graduate student Paul Higgerson, who was in the Air Force, gave a speech reflecting on his time in the military and said he learned discipline.
He also summed up Veterans Day to the people in attendance.
“Today we honor veterans, their families and the communities that support them,” Higgerson said.
Andy Bell, a junior political science major, joined the National Guard on Oct. 23, 2013 so he could start his military career and get his education at the same time.
Bell won the soldier of the year award for his battalion that consists of five companies. He said his sergeant nominated him, and then he had to go in front of a board of senior officers where he was tested on his knowledge of the Army and the skills of an enlisted man.
TJ Prater, a junior communication studies major, served eight years in the Marines and two in the National Guard.
Prater said he joined because the men in his family have served and he figured it was his turn to serve, as well. He also said the events of Sept. 11 pushed him to join the military.
Prater was deployed four times. For his first tour, he went to Southeast and Southwest Asia, Africa and Australia. During his other three tours, he was sent to Afghanistan.
He said Veterans Day is important for a variety of reasons.
“It allows a lot of people who do not know a lot about the military to come out,” Prater said.
Eastern President David Glassman spoke about Eastern’s connection with American wars. People such as Mary J. Booth, whom Booth Library is named after, joined the Red Cross after World War I, and 11 people from Eastern saw combat.
During World War II, men were scarce on campus, Glassman said. He said 1,400 students, faculty and staff served in the military during World War II, including a Medal of Honor recipient.
Samuel Nusbaum can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]