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

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.