Veterans and service members honored in Veterans Day ceremony

Members of the Kent State ROTC program stand at attention and salute the flags while the national anthem is played at the Veterans Day Memorial ceremony Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015.

Lauren Phillips

Looking across the Kiva, various branches of the military were represented Tuesday morning as Kent State honored all who serve with a Veterans Day ceremony.

“Every year the university takes time to recognize our veterans and pay tribute to the men and women who bravely wear the uniform of the United States,” said Lt. Col. Joe Paydock, Army ROTC training officer.

Kent State president Beverly Warren said the university’s Veterans Day ceremony is one of the most important and most significant campus traditions as we come together to share our gratitude to our veterans and military service members.

“It carries a mixture of emotions but most importantly, it stirs the feeling of being so very thankful for the sacrifices made on so many levels,” Warren said.

Warren asked the Kent State faculty, staff and students attending to raise their hands if they have served or are serving in the armed forces today. About 40 hands rose across the Kiva.

The Kent State U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force ROTC sat front row. Warren thanked them for their dedication and service to the program and in their future military careers.

Warren said in the last seven decades, a Kent State alum has served in every major conflict and during peacetime.

“Some of our Kent State family members are among those who have made the ultimate sacrifice including graduates who served in World War II and Vietnam as well as most recently, our members who are serving and have served in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Warren said. “They include stories of young people called to action, a calling to the heart, a true need to give back and a fierce sense of responsibility and competitive spirit that made them the best of the best.”

Warren recognized 2009 graduate 1st Lt. Ashley White-Stumpf who was killed in action in 2011. When Stumpf attended Kent State, she excelled in the ROTC program.

Warren also recognized Spc. Adam Hamilton, who never attended Kent State but was a local community member. He was killed in action in 2011. Warren said Hamilton’s parents are loyal members of the Kent State community.

Paydock then welcomed to the stage 1967 Kent State graduate retired Air Force Col. Richard “Rex” Ray. Ray joined the Kent State U.S. Air Force ROTC program in January 1963. He said he was well prepared to serve as an Air Force leader once he graduated.

“I stand as a proud veteran knowing I have something in common with the millions of men and women who have served in our armed forces,” Ray said.

Ray told the audience about his proudest moments during his Air Force career including when he met the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP). The women in WASP were civilians who flew military aircraft under the supervision of the Army Air Force.

Another highlight of Ray’s career was presenting a Master Sgt. with a silver star for his heroics during World War II. The Master Sgt. was a Prisoner of War for four years until his release from the Japanese in 1945. Ray said he has many stories throughout his career of ordinary people achieving extraordinary results in service to our country. 

“I encourage all of us to show appreciation to veterans every day,” Ray said. “All of us veterans are proud patriots. You can identify us by our caps, shirts, jackets, lapel pins, license plates, the list goes on. We all took an oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States. I am truly grateful for those who came before us and those after us.”

The ceremony ended with Kent State’s tradition of playing the service songs for each branch of our military. As the songs played, many services members proudly stood during their branch’s song and audience members sang along.

“I have to tell you,” Ray said, “it lifts my sprits when I get a smile and a hand shake and the words ‘Thank you for your service.’”

Lauren Phillips is the military and veterans reporter. Contact her at [email protected].