Veterans Day Ceremony at Lees-McRae offers support and recognition to United States veterans

A small group of students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered in Miller Commons on Friday, Nov. 11 to commemorate the Veterans Day holiday.  

After a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by college vocal ensemble The Highlanders, Campus Chaplain Rev. Ted Henry gave an invocation and a brief history of Veterans Day. The federal holiday is celebrated annually on Nov. 11 to mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. Originally known as Armistice Day, it was later renamed to honor the service of all U.S. military veterans.  

Lees-McRae traditionally holds the Veterans Day Ceremony in front of the Veterans Memorial in Swank Park, which lists the names of those killed in action during both World Wars and the Korea and Vietnam Conflicts. This year, the ceremony was moved indoors to Miller Commons due to heavy rainfall from Tropical Depression Nicole. The change in venue created a more intimate, quiet atmosphere for those who came out to support local veterans.  

After Henry’s remarks, Vice President for Planning and External Relations Blaine Hansen offered a few thoughts on the meaning of Veterans Day.  

“In a proclamation shortly before his death, U.S. President John F. Kennedy said, ‘As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them,’” Hansen said. “As I reflect on his statement, two things come to mind. The first is a reminder to celebrate our veterans every day, not just on formal occasions such as this one. The second, and perhaps most important, is a reminder to emulate the fortitude and dedication so ably demonstrated by our veterans and service members.” 

The final speaker was Jeffrey Thompson, a sheriff’s deputy from Gaston County who is currently working towards a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice through Lees-McRae Online.  

Thompson spent nine years serving in the United States armed forces, reaching the rank of sergeant. He spent three and a half years on active duty and was deployed in Kuwait, Iraq, and Kyrgyzstan, and the remaining time in the National Guard in South Carolina.  

Between 2016 and 2021, Thompson balanced working, military service, and attending college, giving himself “zero downtime.” In between deployments, he earned an associate degree from Gaston College and went through basic law enforcement training. Now with just one class left to finish before graduating in December with his bachelor’s degree, Thompson feels that the hard work was worth it.  

“I knew that my education was very important,” Thompson said. “My main point in getting my bachelor’s degree was to earn a higher rank and so my voice is heard and my decisions impact not only my place of employment but my county as well. I do what I do to set an example for others to follow. I love the time I was able to serve my country, and now I love my time serving the community of Gastonia. I’m blessed to have been given the opportunity to serve.”   

After a benediction given by Henry, the ceremony concluded and those in attendance were able to share their own personal feelings of gratitude with the veterans present.  

By Emily WebbNovember 15, 2022