Our Country, Our Voices: Oglethorpe Honors Our Veterans

Photo: David Dixon

November 11th is Veterans Day.  It is an occasion to honor the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served our country, to recognize the families who have stood by them in service, and to reflect upon all of the freedoms that these men and women have fought to preserve.

This year, Oglethorpe University, together with various campus organizations and departments, will host a series of events throughout the week to honor our veterans called “Our Country, Our Voices: Oglethorpe Honors Our Veterans.” The events are in conjunction with the OU Museum of Art’s current exhibition “Burden of Proof: National Identity and the Legacy of War,” which runs through December 9, 2012.

Sophomore Antonio Mántica (left) and senior Jef Palframan, president of the OU Veterans' Club, form sheet metal into large "ribbons." Photo: Krista Palframan

On November 4th, the OU Veterans’ Club launched a yellow ribbon campaign to increase awareness of the day’s significance. Club members constructed and installed 10-foot high sheet metal yellow ribbons at the front entrance of campus. They also plan to hand out 1000 personal ribbons on campus and will host a remembrance event, “Lest We Forget,” on Friday, November 9, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. in Lupton Auditorium. (Find out more about their efforts on their Facebook page.)

Usually closed on Mondays, the OU Museum of Art will open its doors to host a Veterans’ Open House, with free admission to all veterans on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 12 noon-7:00 p.m.. Various veterans’ assistance groups will be onsite throughout the day. Plus, the OU Veterans’ Club will be accepting donations for their clothing and coat drive for homeless veterans, and a giveaway of gift items from area businesses will benefit veterans’ services.

Later that evening, veterans of WWII, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan will discuss their experiences and struggles in a panel discussion, “Transitioning to Civilian Life,” at 6:00 p.m.  Many skills learned in combat are not applicable to the workforce, and veterans are generally required to go through an arduous process of re-qualification in order to get work.  Plus, many veterans feel isolated or out of place, unaccustomed to their new lives at home. In addition, policymakers in Washington recently failed to approve a bill that would have eased veterans’ reintegration into the civilian workforce, and recent reports estimate that 88% of veterans will drop out of college.

“It would be wrong of me not to make people aware of this,” said Jef Palframan ’13, president of the OU Veterans’ Club and a veteran himself.  “Our military size is going to decrease… Now starts the work to take care of the guys coming home.”  Admission: $5; free for veterans, OUMA members or with a Petrel Pass. Co-sponsored by OUMA, the Office of Admission and the OU Veterans’ Club.

Other events to commemorate Veterans Day include:

Open Forum/Open Mic: “Empower to Inspire Progress,” Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
What does being American mean to you? What are you doing to make your voice heard? Do you feel you have patriotic obligations? Which American alive or dead inspire you, and why? All are welcome to join this open forum and share your opinions, ideas or a story, song or poem. Admission: $5; free for OUMA members and with a Petrel Pass. Co-sponsored by OUMA and Epsilon Iota Psi.

Lecture: “On the Downstream Biological Effects of Agent Orange,” Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
Dr. Karen Schmeichel, associate professor of biology at Oglethorpe, will present about the hotly debated and complex subject of the widespread use by American troops during the Vietnam conflict of the defoliant called “Agent Orange” and its far reaching effects. Admission: $5; free for OUMA members and with a Petrel Pass.

Movie Screening & Discussion: Agent Orange: 30 Years Later, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 7:00 p.m., OU Museum of Art
OUMA and ECOS (Environmentally Concerned Oglethorpe Students) will co-host a screening of the award-winning 2009 film by John Trinh with open discussion to follow.  Reel Earth – Environmental Film Festival of New Zealand said, “Despite the horror, the film is at times intensely moving and beautiful, showing also the better side of human nature—qualities like kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.” This event is free and open to all.

OU Student Comes Face-to-Face with WWII History

Paige Williams and Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk

OU student Paige Williams recently had the chance to meet 91-year-old WWII veteran Theodore “Dutch” Van Kirk, the navigator of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima that helped to turn the course of the war. Paige, who is the vice president of the Oglethorpe Veterans’ Club (OVC), met the American hero at a gathering of the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association, where he was a guest speaker.

Paige was able to meet Mr. Van Kirk as a result of an invitation from an OU faculty member Dr. Chris Benton, who is the director of accounting studies at OU,  the faculty advisor for the OVC, and a Vietnam veteran. Dr. Benton is a proud member of Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association, an organization that brings together metro Atlanta professionals who share the bond of serving their country in Vietnam.  The association meets monthly and celebrates a special guest speaker during each meeting.

According to Dr. Benton, some speakers are Medal of Honor winners—and they all represent the face of American history. Each provides their own personal account of events and sometimes even unveil a humorous side of history.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to meet the people who lived and wrote the history that we all study in classrooms.”

The Oglethorpe Veterans’ Club is always looking for ways to honor and remember American veterans. In just a few weeks, on Saturday, April 7, they’re planning a day trip to the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga., billed as “the greatest museum in the U.S. designed first and foremost with the Army Infantryman in mind.” The trip is open to everyone.  To sign up for trip or to learn more about OVC, send an e-mail to ovc@oglethorpe.edu.

Oglethorpe Veterans Club Honors Those Who’ve Served

The Oglethorpe Veterans Club handed out yellow lapel ribbons across campus.

To commemorate Veterans Day today, the newly-formed Oglethorpe Veterans Club distributed yellow lapel ribbons to raise awareness, held a campus-wide moment of silence at 11 a.m. to remember those who have fallen, and hosted a “Lest We Forget” brunch event to honor those who’ve served and their families.  

The Oglethorpe Veterans Club members include veterans, family members, students, faculty, staff and alumni who have come together to recognize the contributions of soldiers. 

“Veterans are really everywhere,” said Jef Palframan ’13, founding president of the OU Veterans Club—and a veteran himself. “The club is for everyone, not just veterans, and our mission is the aid those who have served and their families.”

Jef Palframan '13, Professor Chris Benton, Trustee Fred Agel '52, Trustee Emeritus O.K. Sheffield '53

The event opened and closed with prayers for those who have  fallen in battle, for those who are missing, and those who are fighting right now. There also were toasts made to those who have served and their families, as well as remarks from Dean of Students Michelle Hall, OU Trustee Fred Agel ’52, and Trustee Emeritus O.K. Sheffield ’53. Veterans who attended were encouraged to wear their uniforms and medals. 

OU shares a long history with alumni veterans and veterans-turned-students. Oglethorpe’s first international students in the 1940s were four Norwegian veterans of WWII.  (Read the full article: Summer 2011 Carillon, pages 10-11.)  Currently there are 13 veterans enrolled as students at Oglethorpe.

An empty table symbolized those soldiers who are or were prisoners of war or missing in action.