This article first appeared in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
Kentucky Wesleyan College’s Veterans Day ceremony on Friday was brief but served two purposes — honor veterans and announce a student-led campaign to raise money for Honor Flight.
Darian Reese, a 21-year-old KWC senior, organized the event held inside the campus’ Winchester Center.
Reese said she wanted to help local veterans, especially those who served in World War II, by contributing to the Honor Flight cause.
“We participated in Honor Flight at my high school,” said Reese, a zoology major from Anamosa, Iowa. “It’s really not that expensive; it’s $500 a person. And I feel like, if we can get the school together, it will be really easy to send people.”
Honor Flight Network is a national nonprofit organization that began in 2005 to transport World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., at no cost. It was established to allow them to experience the World War II Memorial that was completed in 2004. The Honor Flight Network now has the Bluegrass Chapter based in Louisville. In recent years, Honor Flight has begun serving Korean and Vietnam veterans.
Reese said she will be meeting with KWC’s Student Government Association on Monday to begin planning fundraisers.
“I have a lot of veterans in my family so Veterans Day has always been an impactful holiday for me,” Reese said.
The ceremony drew two WW II veterans — 92-year-old Gus Paris and 91-year-old Emil Ahnell — and retired Navy veterans Ken Ayers and Dave Oetinger.
“We all need to be reminded that no person is greater than the victories we’ve won in defending our freedoms,” Darrell said.
Paris, a Marine, served from 1941 to 1945 in the Pacific Theater.
“I spent my 18th birthday on Guadalcanal throwing hand grenades,” said Paris, a former KWC professor.
Ahnell, a Navy veteran, served from 1943 to 1946 in the European Theater.
Ahnell, who also taught at KWC, said he received his draft papers just prior to graduating high school.
“I was told to report a week after high school, which was in June,” Ahnell said. “I was in the Navy in July. …I spent every Christmas on the ocean.”
During the ceremony, KWC President Bart Darrell spoke to the students about Veterans Day, relating it to Tuesday’s general election.
“We all need to be reminded that no person is greater than the victories we’ve won in defending our freedoms,” Darrell said. “…If not for the people who laid down their lives, without regard to political ideology or party, we would not be here today. Those questions of political affiliation were not asked in battle. They were all Americans and we are today.”
The ceremony ended outside with the playing of “Taps” and a prayer next to the flagpole.
Among those at the flagpole was KWC student Norman Wright, a 29-year-old veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Wright, a Marine, enlisted at 18 after graduating from Daviess County High School in 2005 and was discharged in April of this year.
“I always like on Veterans Day getting to see the prior personnel and seeing the community show its support,” Wright said. “…I’m just now getting to experience (the support).”
Don Wilkins, firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-691-7299, Twitter: @DonWilkinsMI