One trumpet player stood at attention on the base of one steeple, and another stood erect on the base of the opposite steeple. When one trumpeter began to play Taps, the other one echoed his notes.
The solemn music, coming from the McMicken tower and the Tangeman University Center clock tower, filled the lawn below where a hushed audience paid its respects to veterans who had not lived to see this Veterans Day. At the rear of the lawn, Army and Air Force ROTC students stood at attention in their dress uniforms. In the front, rows of chairs held faculty, staff, administrators and veterans of all ages — some in uniform and many of them dabbing their eyes.
Despite the solemnity of the service held on the Friday before the holiday, Veterans Day, unlike Memorial Day, is a time to honor living veterans. So the University of Cincinnati certainly used the occasion to pay tribute to its 1,200 current veteran-students by opening the doors of a new Veterans One Stop Center in University Pavilion.
As an answer to UC's recent doubling of its veterans' enrollment, the center will provide information about tutoring, career services, disability services, counseling and veterans benefits certification. Mitchel Livingston, chief diversity officer and vice president of student affairs and services, said the university made a commitment in 2008 to become a preeminent resource to serve the unique challenges that veterans face.
"The center will provide a more seamless access to programs and resources," he said. In addition, a liaison from the Veterans Administration will be assigned to UC to assist veterans with VA health services and issues such as readjusting to civilian life.
The Nov. 9, 2012, ceremony also included remarks by Col. Robert Peterson, an Army Corps of Engineers deputy commander. He explained that Veterans Day was originally established to commemorate the armistice that ended World War I, signed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1919. He noted that the subsequent GI Bill led to 14 Nobel Laureates, 24 Pulitzer Prize winners, three Supreme Court judges and two U.S. presidents.
The most moving part of the program, however, took place when remarks came from Leslie Ponder, widow of Army Master Sgt. Tre Ponder, who was killed in 2005 on his fourth Afghanistan tour. He was crew chief of a helicopter rushing to aid a Navy SEAL team pinned down in Kumar when the helicopter took a direct hit. Leslie admitted that she almost turned down the speaking engagement because she wanted it to focus on the living.
In the end, she did focus on our living vets when she pointed out how most veterans are invisible to us. We certainly notice the ones who lack limbs, but we never see the hidden physical and emotional scars found in the average veterans with whom we unknowingly interact everyday. To each and every one of them, she offered her heart-felt thanks.
She said that such thanks meant more to them than any award or medal, and a standing ovation indicated she was right. It also served to thank every veteran in attendance.