CEDAR CITY — Community members gathered at Southern Utah University Tuesday to honor those who have served and are currently serving in the United States armed forces.
More than 300 people gathered in the Randall L. Jones Theatre on the SUU campus for a veterans service event, during which three veterans were recognized and presented with honors for their services.
The event’s keynote speaker, Kathy Nelson, said she has assisted with organizing the SUU Veterans Day event for the past 25 years. She was the first to present the idea of hosting an event honoring veterans, which came to her after speaking with a family member who had served in the Marines.
“I cherish this program as one of the most treasured experiences of my life,” Nelson said.
Nelson also spoke about how she has seen students from SUU grow to appreciate the armed forces over the years, and how she has no concern about them respecting those who have fought to preserve freedom.
Following Nelson’s remarks, retired Lt. Col. Kent Myers read an excerpt from the book “The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw. The term “The Greatest Generation” is used to describe those who grew up during the time of the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II.
In a portion of the reading, Myers said:
They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. They succeeded on every front. They won the war; they saved the world. They came home to joyous and short-lived celebrations and immediately began the task of rebuilding their lives and the world they wanted.
These soldiers have many stories to tell that have never been told before, Myers said in the reading. This is because, to many of them, what they did was not that special because everyone else was doing it along with them.
Following the reading, three veterans were recognized for their service as part of an ongoing tradition, Sam Findley, a veterans affairs specialist at SUU, said. Each year, the veterans chosen to be recognized include one current SUU student, one alumnus and one community member.
Videos were played telling the history of each veteran and each vet’s individual journey to the armed forces, and each honoree gave a speech highlighting what had been mentioned in the video and offering thanks to people in their lives. The men recognized for the 2014 event were Levi Roundy, Charles Triplett and Richard Gunn.
Roundy, a current SUU student, and Triplett, a sergeant in the Iron County Sheriff’s Office and an SUU graduate, were the first to be recognized for their service. Roundy and Triplett each expressed appreciation for the recognition but said they felt there were other veterans who deserved it just as much.
“What I’m going to do is I’m going to accept this award for all of the other veterans and for all those who haven’t made it back,” Triplett said.
The final veteran featured at the ceremony was 92-year-old Richard Gunn, a veteran of WWII.
Gunn was born in Lynndyl, Utah, on Nov. 19, 1921, where he grew up working on his family farm until graduating from Delta High School. After graduation, Gunn attended Utah State University and, when the war began, he enlisted in the Air Force.
After receiving training in radio broadcasting, Gunn was stationed in Europe as a staff sergeant in the Army Air Corps. During his five years of service, Gunn was on the ground in France just days following the storm of Normandy Beach, as well as in Europe to hear word of Germany’s surrender.
Following his deployment, Gunn returned to the United States, where he began work at a radio station in Calexico, California, and met his future wife, Shirley Brown. Following their marriage in 1950, the couple moved to Cedar City where Gunn began work as a radio engineer at KSUB.
After retiring at the age of 61, Gunn said, he has continued working toward helping the community. Gunn has volunteered in the Cedar City Chamber of Commerce as well as at the Happy Factory, where he helps make toys for needy children.
“I think that (Cedar City) is made great by all the volunteers and people who are willing to do things,” Gunn said.
Gunn added he has worked to help raise awareness for veterans in the community. One of the projects he has helped bring to life is the Veterans Monument at the Cedar City Cemetery, complete with a plaque, benches and a flagpole.
Following recognition of the three veterans, members of the Cedar High School Symphonic Band played service hymns for the U.S. Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy. During each hymn, any audience members who were veterans of that division were encouraged to stand, and the veterans received a pin commemorating their service.
To end the event, Carl Templin, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, took a moment to thank all those who were spouses of veterans. That job, Templin said, is one that takes great strength.
“They stay home and keep the home fire burning, take care of the family and take on additional responsibilities,” Templin said. “… To those who have supported their loved ones through difficult times, we honor you.”
As veteran spouses left the event, university ROTC cadets handed out white roses to honor their commitment and strength to the veterans in their lives.
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