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The East Texan

A Flame of Hope Still Burns for America’s Veterans

Isabella Garcia, Staff Reporter

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This year marks the 25th Annual Veterans Vigil, hosted by Texas A&M University-Commerce. On Wednesday, Nov. 9 there will be an opening ceremony that will begin at 10 a.m. in the Sam Rayburn Student Center Mall. Following this, the Eternal Flame will be lit until the next day at the Closing Ceremony. People from near and far are welcome to attend as we commemorate all those who lost their lives in war.

The Veterans Vigil this year has a unique theme that distinguishes it from previous years. Last year’s theme was Prisoners of War/Missing in Action. This year, the theme is Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), because a majority of the veterans who currently attend A&M-Commerce were directly involved during that time of war.

“This year marks our 25th year,” Dustin Pearson, the VA (Veterans Association) Representative, said. “This is our largest veteran population ever and it’s going to continue to grow so that why we decided that it should be more based on our student population.”

The Opening Ceremony is welcome to students, faculty, locals, and foreigners. There will be an appearance by the ROTC, the Mayor, and American Legion.

The guest speaker of the opening ceremony will be Dr. David Hurley, the Master’s Advisor in Applied Criminology here on campus. As a veteran of OIF in special forces and past professor at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, he has a great deal of understanding as well as a personal connection with this year’s theme.

At 11 a.m. the Eternal Flame will be lit by Retired First Sergeant and current student, Chris Vainer. The flame will be located on the walking mall in front of the Rayburn Student Center. Every hour a different veteran has volunteered to guard the flame as it continues to until the following day at 4:30 p.m. Bystanders will be able to see the Vigil Guards throughout the day dressed in their military uniform or tribute shirts. Veterans have already signed up and a full schedule of names can be found on the TAMUC website at www.tamuc.edu/admissions/veteransAffairs/veteransVigil/ signUp/default.aspx.

“We just make sure that the flame remains undisturbed,” said Robert Duncan, student worker, Vice President of the SVA and previous Vigil Guard, “and that everybody is respectful of the area because of what it stands for. Most veterans will stick it out; we’ve been through a lot worse. The least we can do is stand there for an hour and we call it “embrace the suck”.

As for members of the Vigil Community, they are invited to eat lunch in the Sam Rayburn Student Center Cafeteria free of charge. There will also be stress management and time management seminars available for veterans in the BA Lounge.

Th r ou g hout these two days, a Moving Wall will also be paying tribute to all Texans veterans killed in OIF and OEF conflicts, Nov. 8 and 9. Similar to the Vietnam Wall, it is a monument with every name of a fallen veteran from Texas. Students will be able to physically see the names of those who fought for freedom as someone continuously reads them off as well.

Another event held by the Student Veterans Association on Sunday Nov. 8, is the barbecue luncheon from noon to 2 p.m. at the Crossroads. Food will be catered from Ernie’s Pit Barbecue in Greenville and veterans are encouraged to attend, eat free food, and have a good time among other veterans.

The Veteran Vigil is a tradition here on campus honoring those brave men and women who fought and served during military battle. To learn more about the Veteran Vigil or Veteran Affairs visit http://www.tamuc.edu/admissions/veteransAffairs/ or the Veterans Office in the One Stop Shop.

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A Flame of Hope Still Burns for America’s Veterans