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UCA Hosts Annual Veterans Day Event

The University of Central Arkansas Veterans Committee hosted its annual Veterans Day event in McCastlain Hall on Nov. 11 to honor those who served in the military. This year was even more special because it marked the centennial since the original interment of the Unknown Soldier.

Pinnacle Brass, the resident brass quintet of UCA, welcomed attendees with patriotic music and accompanied vocalist Annmarie Eaton during the “Star-Spangled Banner.” 

Bayonet Battalion presented the colors during the Veterans Day ceremony at UCA on Nov. 11.

The Bayonet Battalion presented the colors. UCA Veterans Committee member Capt. Andrew Fisher was the master of ceremonies for the program.

UCA has hosted a Veterans Day ceremony for 24 years. President Houston Davis said it is important for the campus to pause and appreciate the sacrifices of our veterans which allows us to enjoy our freedoms. 

“Here at UCA, our support for our veterans and their dependents is unwavering, whether it is a veteran who is a student, a faculty member, staff member, or a neighbor of ours here in Conway, Faulkner County, or beyond,” Davis said. “UCA wants to be known as a trusted partner to veterans as well as to make certain that we’re providing the necessary services and support.”

Davis said the university is in the process of completing the Veterans Resource Center at the corner of Bruce Street and Donaghy Avenue. The center will allow UCA to serve veterans in an even greater capacity. It is scheduled for completion within the next year. 

The ceremony also included the presentation of the Tidwell UCA Veterans Scholarship by Mark and Tracy Tidwell in honor of Master Sgt. John Tidwell, a U.S. Air Force veteran.

Tracy Tidwell shares why her family created a veterans scholarship at UCA.

“My husband Mark and I have always believed wherever we live, we are to give back to our community,” Tracy Tidwell said. “We have always had a special place in our heart for veterans. So when we were looking at how we could give back ⸺ and in a way that is long term ⸺ we decided to go with a scholarship for a veteran who is going back to school.” 

This year the Tidwell scholarship goes to Deven Dyer ’16, ’20, an Air Force veteran and doctoral student in the counseling psychology program. Dyer was unable to attend the ceremony due to prior commitments. He wrote that he plans to serve as an active-duty psychologist when he graduates. 

Retired Maj. Gen. Ronald Chastain gave the keynote address for the program. Chastain served in a variety of command and staff assignments since his military career began in 1972. 

“Today all across the United States, we have people gathering to pay tribute to veterans,” Chastain said. “It is our chance to thank those who have selflessly answered the call to duty and remember all those who have served. Veterans Day reminds us that freedom is not free. It must be protected and defended by each new generation of Americans.” 

Chastain reminded the audience that not every veteran has been to war, but most veterans count their time in uniform among the defining experiences of their lives. 

Retired Maj. Gen. Ronald Chastain gave the keynote address during the UCA Veterans Day program.

“The military drew out the best that was in them, instilling the high standards of discipline, diligence and duty. Each took an oath to live by a code and stood ready to fight for our country,” Chastain said. “Veterans are also involved in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions…While the mission and location may change throughout the world, service members are the ones who answer the call to duty when there is a job to be done.” 

After Chastain’s address, the audience watched a film about the Tomb of the Unknown  Soldier followed by Pinnacle Brass playing “Armed Forces Salute,” a medley of the anthems from each of the various branches of the military. Veterans stood as their service song was played. Then Fisher called attention to a small round table in the front of the room. 

“It is set for one to symbolize the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as prisoners of war and missing in action,” Fisher said. “We call them comrades. They are unable to be with us today. So we joined together to pay our humble tribute to them and to bear witness to their continued absence.”

Each detail on the table had significant meaning to represent the emotions reserved for those who did not come home. The ceremony ended with Pinnable Brass playing taps and a moment of silence.