In 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower set aside a single day for the sole purpose of recognizing the countless men and women who have valiantly served in the United States military.
Veterans Day and its historical significance are linked to the signing of the resolution ending a global conflict that touched millions across several continents – the First World War. The armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, at 11:00am – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Originally called Armistice Day, the name was changed to include all veterans and all conflicts. Contrary to belief at the time, history would later show that WWI was not the war that would end all war. We have seen full-scale war and military interventions since then, each requiring a requisite number of young Americans called to protect and defend the principles and people of their nation.
The University of Kentucky has played a role throughout its 150-year-history in the training and education of many of our military. Originally established as a land-grant university, military training was and remains part of our important work. Today, we are confident and proud of the young, intelligent Wildcats who leave our campus and serve our country in the Armed Forces.
This Veterans Day is especially poignant for me and the UK family because of two student veterans. Matthew Bradford, a Marine Corps veteran who lost both of his legs and his eyesight to a roadside bomb in Iraq, is a communications major who has set out to become a radio sports announcer for UK sports. On occasion, I see Matthew as he arrives on campus each morning and is dropped off by his wife Amanda. And each morning, as he returns to pursue his dream, he is wearing something that clearly affiliates him with the U.S. Marine Corps and the University of Kentucky.
The entire UK family shares an abiding gratitude for veterans like Matthew who have sacrificed so much and asked for nothing in return. And I’m deeply grateful for our university family and their compassion for Matthew and hundreds of student veterans who walk our campus every day.
The second student is a Marine veteran named Dillon Shoffner. Dillon served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. While he came home physically unscathed, like many veterans he struggled emotionally with the transition back to civilian life. He was enrolled in our special transition class for student veterans and was a friend of Matthew; helping him get to class twice a week.
Unfortunately, Dillon chose to end his own life just a couple of weeks ago. He left behind a wife, a son and an entire unit of Marine Reservists who looked up to him. Dillon gives a name and a face to the latest statistic that places suicide as main cause of death in our military and veteran communities. Some reports put the number as tragically high as 22 per day, emphasizing the true significance of Veterans Day observance.
I want to invite the entire UK family to visit the Main Building on Tuesday, November 11th, at 11:00am to take part in our annual observance and recognition of our veterans. Hot chili will be served immediately following in Buell Armory. We also encourage you to organize your own events within your departments and units to honor those who work beside you each day.
Always remember that service and gratitude are not limited to space or time.
To all of our Wildcat family veterans, we offer our heartfelt thanks to you on Veterans Day.