Baylor joins to honor vets, educate students

By Rebecca Fiedler
Staff Writer

At a magnitude not reached in recent years, Baylor will honor those who have served in the military with a Veterans Day ceremony. From 5 to 6 p.m. Monday at the Bill Daniel Student Center Bowl, the Baylor and Waco community will come together to pay homage and learn about veterans’ service.

The ceremony, sponsored by Veterans of Baylor, Veteran Education & Transition Services (VETS), and Baylor Army & Air Force ROTC, is intended to explain what Veterans Day is, how it came to be and why it is important, said Seattle junior Bryan Solis, public affairs officer for Veterans of Baylor and Marine Corps veteran. The event is free and open to the public.

“We as veterans want to instill that knowledge in Baylor campus and share it with the Waco community for veterans that are coming back to Baylor, who have served their country in whatever branch of service they wear the uniform for,” Solis said. “We also want to honor veterans from before who have served in other wars, and just bring that awareness to the community.”

This is the third year Baylor has had the Veterans Day ceremony, and the first year that the event will be co-sponsored by multiple Baylor military organizations.

Event coordinators also expect a larger turnout than in years before, said Dr. Janet Bagby, faculty advisor for Veterans of Baylor and VETS coordinator.
Waco senior Kelli Betner, Veterans of Baylor president and Army veteran, will be speaking at the event.

“To have a veteran community at Baylor is important for incoming military students,” Betner said. “You come out of the military, and being able to join an organization like Veterans of Baylor creates that connection again with your fellow veterans.”

One of the reasons sponsors want to make the ceremony so large is that some students don’t know what a veteran is, Bagby said.

“Fewer than 1 percent of families in the U.S. today have someone serving in the military,” she said. “So it’s becoming very generational and very familial in that only certain families carry the undue burden of serving in the military.”

Bagby said there is a lack of connection between most Americans and military families.

“I think it’s a disconnect with the military — a disconnect with the military that we have not seen in generations past,” she said.

Baylor student veterans will be speaking at the ceremony, and Lorena junior Holly Tucker, known for her appearance on TV show “The Voice,” will sing the national anthem, along with other songs.

“Holly Tucker will be performing throughout the ceremony as well as singing a lot of patriotic songs; a lot of uplifting songs to kind of give that feeling of patriotism and also have the prayerful aspect and spiritual aspect of veterans who are here at Baylor and Waco who look to God for their source of strength,” Solis said.

The event will also include a flag-folding ceremony, performed by active duty Air Force members and narrated by Waco senior Ben Betner, Veterans of Baylor vice president.

“Every time a soldier passes away, the casket is covered by a flag,” said Maj. Santos Arroyo, battalion commander for Baylor Army ROTC. “Right before the burial the flag detail lays the flag and folds it a certain way that shows only the blue color of the flag and five stars of the flag. That flag is presented to the spouse or mother of the veteran.”

Flag folding is done at burials, but is not always done just for the deceased, Arroyo said. When someone retires from the military, they are given the same folded flag.

Brig. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, III Corps Chief of Staff on Fort Hood from 2008 to 2009, will speak at the ceremony. Funk spoke last semester at Baylor with former U.S. congressman Chet Edwards.

“He is very familiar with the area, because the generals at Fort Hood have influence over this whole area, all the way to San Antonio,” Arroyo said.

The Griffin Kott Band will perform after the ceremony, where refreshments will be served, and attendees will have the opportunity to visit with the veterans.

Bagby said Veterans Day is important to her on a personal level because her husband is a veteran, her son is a helicopter pilot for the Marines and her father was in the Navy during WWII.

“Professionally, this is important to me because this is part of our initiative on campus for building a military-embracing community,” she said. “Baylor for a long time has been very veteran-friendly because of the nature of Baylor. But I see coordinated efforts to take that to a new level, and one of the initiatives to doing that is to have all four groups join in sponsoring this ceremony, so we’re involving all of our military on campus.”

Arroyo said Veterans Day exists to honor all veterans; not just those who have been injured, seen battle or been killed in action.

“People have a tendency to pay more attention to combat actions because it tests leadership and soldiers in different ways,” he said. “Personally I’ve never been shot at, and I’ve been in Kuwait, Bosnia, Iraq. So I cannot tell you how I would react if I were in an engagement. That’s why people tend to put more emphasis on what happened in an engagement or a battle. Who was the leader that everyone looked up to? Who shone as a leader and a soldier? But the truth is, even the people that are not involved in the battle go through a lot of stressful situations”

Arroyo said that veterans who have not faced combat have still seen hardships and faced stress and danger.

“I think everyone should be honored,” he said.

Arroyo also said Veterans Day is a simple way to honor those who have served.

“It exists to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans to this country,” he said. “Most veterans that I know are not looking for glory or recognition. They just want to serve their country. And so having one day of the year to recognize their sacrifice and their service to the nation I think is a great thing.”