War veterans, ROTC members and their families, and students also gathered in the Glenn Miller Ballroom on Thursday to honor those who have served their country.
Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day, is a holiday observed annually in the U.S. in honor of all those who have served with the U.S. Armed Forces.
CU’s University Memorial Center not only serves as a center of student activity but also as the state’s official memorial to veterans.
The ceremony began with the CU ROTC Color Guard performing the tradition of presenting the colors, during which the American flag is escorted to the stage. Several veterans had tears in their eyes as they watched the presentation, including 90-year-old World War II veteran, Susan Smith.
Smith served as a nurse in Narberth, PA in 1942 and proudly showed off her original dog tags to everyone she spoke to. She was escorted to the ceremony by her daughter and clutched her heart throughout the commemoration.
Carlos Garcia, director of the UMC, explained the history of the building. In 1947, more than half of all college students were World War II veterans. When funding became available for a new student union on the CU campus that same year, Colorado citizens decided that the building should serve as a memorial for those who had served in the world wars.
“The UMC is not only a place for student involvement and leadership, but a place to remember that freedom does not come without a price,” Garcia said.
The UMC also houses artifacts from the U.S.S. Colorado, a battleship active between 1942 and 1945. The ship’s bell and wheel, as well as the 48-star American flag that flew on the ship during World War II, are on display in the UMC Veterans Lounge, in addition to a cast-iron scaled model of the battleship itself.
Scott Stocker, 65, a CU alum and former Rocky Mountain News writer, served as the head nurse and medic in the Vietnam War in 1969 and 1970. This ceremony is one of very few that he has attended.
“[Veterans Day] means a lot of personal reflection,” Stocker said. “It means a lot to me, and I’ve gone to [Veterans Day] parades, but I haven’t attended very many gatherings. It brings back too many memories.”
Stocker has become more involved recently in Veterans Day commemorations due to an interest in politics and said he enjoyed Thursday’s ceremony and honoring his fellow veterans.
Featured speaker Sen. Rollie Heath served in the U.S. Army for 23 years with nine years of active duty and 14 years of reserve service. He was commissioned in 1959 before attending law school.
Heath reminisced about how times have changed since he enlisted in the Army. He mentioned how most of his childhood friends were without their fathers, and food and gas were heavily rationed.
“Young men believed they owed it to their country and to those before them to serve this country,” Heath said.
Heath said he strongly encourages veterans and non-veterans to continue attending ceremonies dedicated to those who have served in the Armed Forces and, most importantly, to remember what it means to be a veteran.
“We are on our way to a much better understanding of what sacrifice means, what military service means and what serving our country means.” Heath said.
Heath said that among all the titles he holds, including state senator of Colorado, the one he is most proud of is being a war veteran.
“[Veterans Day] means freedom and sacrifice,” Heath said. “Freedom and liberty don’t come without a price, and veterans have paid the ultimate price in sacrificing their lives to make sure we can all live in liberty.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ashley Ward at Ashley.firstname.lastname@example.org.