Dozens of veterans and others gathered inside the Prince Center at the University of Central Arkansas for the school’s 21st annual Veterans Day Celebration on Thursday.
“Today’s celebration is two part,” Maj. Eric Weatherman said. “The first being the 100th anniversary of World War I, also known as Armistice Day, and the second being the 50th anniversary of UCA’s ROTC Program.”
He said that 100 years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, an armistice was called, putting a temporary end to the hostilities across Europe.
Weatherman said it was Nov. 11, 1918, that was recognized as the ending of World War I.
Furthermore, he said, it was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who issued the first proclamation changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day, honoring all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
UCA President Houston Davis said it was an honor to have all the guests there.
“It is a great day when we can come together and celebrate all that Veterans Day represents to us not only as a university but as a community and a country,” he said.
Davis said many in attendance would naturally be thinking about loved ones and friends who have given themselves to serve, including many who sacrificed their lives.
“We are all reflecting upon the way that we as a community and we as a university support our veterans, our active duty, their families, as they are going through their studies as they are going through comparing themselves for their careers and for lives that really reflect the great service that they have given to this country,” he said.
Davis added that he wanted all to know that UCA stands proud with “our veterans,” and wanted to “make certain,” that they are putting the necessary resources, time and attention in front of these “young men and young women who have given so much.”
During the ceremony, Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry also spoke.
The mayor recognized several friends in the audience, including Bill Bounds, retired U.S. Marine Corp.
Castleberry said when he was young, he learned how to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which the room spoke in unison not but a few minutes prior.
“One time I had the privilege of standing next to Bill Bounds when he said the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said. “That’s the first time I’ve heard someone say it and mean every word.”
Castleberry looked out into the audience and addressed Bounds.
“Bill, when I say the Pledge of Allegiance, I think of every word because of you,” he said. “Thank you.”
The Conway mayor read a proclamation making Nov. 8, 2018, Veteran’s Appreciation Day.
Retired Maj. Gen. Walter Paulson spoke during the event.
“I’m really honored to see so many veterans and so many true heroes,” he said, addressing the crowd. “I’m one of those that somehow wound my way of 34 years of military without actually serving in an actual combat and command.”
Paulson said while he didn’t serve in combat, he did get to visit a lot of those places, talking with and helping commanders and units get what they needed to do their jobs.
He said during his 34 years, he’s taken shots of vodka and eaten caviar with Russian oligarchs in Moscow, has watched camel races in Saudi Arabia and eaten dinner under tents in the desert, drank beer with CIA agents in South America and taken dinner and wine with diplomats in El Salvador.
“I’ve trained and validated and sent to war or other duties over 150,000 soldiers in national guard and reserve from all over the country and made thousands of friends that I still call brother, had experiences that will stay with me forever and that’s not too bad a career,” Paulson said.
He said when he looks back, he wonders how his military career was so successful and attributes it to the great leaders that mentored him, his hard work and the men who served beside him.
“I was, though more than anything else, the beneficiary of a career filled with lasting memories of being a part of great teams,” Paulson said.
He said there’s value in encouraging and honoring a life dedicated to service to the country, including the ones there today.
“I thank you again for your service to this country,” Paulson said.