Campus News

Honoring Our UK Veterans

image of Veterans Day card
photo of retired Air Force Gen. Jack I. Gregory

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 11, 2020) — The University of Kentucky is home to student, faculty, staff and alumni veterans from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. This Veterans Day, the university is proud to honor these men and women for their service and sacrifice.

“When we celebrate Veterans Day, we celebrate those who have worn the uniform out of patriotism. For duty. For the calling to serve our country. For the willingness to sacrifice for the common good,” said Sarah Van Vooren, a UK middle school education major and U.S. Navy veteran. “The importance of observing and celebrating Veterans Day cannot be overstated — it is intrinsic to our history and heritage and reminds us, truly, that freedom isn't free.”

"This We'll Defend."

"Semper Fidelis."

"Semper Fortis."

"Aim high ... Fly. Fight. Win"

"Semper Paratus."

According to Van Vooren, these are not merely words or mottos.

“They express our values and traditions and are imbued with the very spirit of those of us who have served and swore our oaths for life,” she said.

Tomorrow, UK’s Air Force ROTC 290 Detachment will honor a special UK alumnus who has dedicated his life to serving his country. Retired Air Force Gen. Jack I. Gregory will receive the 2020 Air Force ROTC Distinguished Alumnus Award for his accomplishments in service.

The UK community is invited to attend the virtual ceremony beginning 3 p.m. EST Thursday, Nov. 12. The event will be livestreamed from Buell Armory on UK’s campus. To attend the event, visit No registration is required.

Gregory was born in Somerset, Kentucky, in 1931, and he graduated from Somerset High School in 1949. He earned a bachelor of science degree from UK in 1953, where he also was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force through UK’s Reserve Officer Training Corps Detachment 290, the “Flying Wildcats.”

“What an honor it was to have some of the first returning World War II veterans in my classes,” Gregory said. “And they were serious about their studies — thus pushing the grading curve up!”

Over the course of the next 35 years, Gregory served in multiple command positions across the United States, Germany and South Korea. He became a command pilot with almost 7,000 flying hours in fighter aircraft and flew more than 250 combat missions as commander, Pacific Air Forces (Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii) from 1986 to 1988.

His military decorations and awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal with 13 oak leaf clusters and Air Force Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster.

A full biography of Gregory can be found here.

In addition to this public virtual ceremony, an invite-only ceremony for UK student veterans will also be held today on campus. Attendees will receive a lapel pin commemorating their service.

Approximately 400 student veterans are currently enrolled at UK.

“I am eternally grateful for the connections I have made with other UK veterans and the support our student community receives through the work of Mr. Tony Dotson, the director of the Veterans Resource Center,” Van Vooren said.

For more information about the UK Veterans Resource Center, visit

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.