Columbia College honors veterans Nov. 5 to 12.
By Whitney Dreier
Approximately 25 percent of all students taught annually at Columbia College are in some way associated with the military – a relationship that began nearly 40 years ago when the college began providing evening courses to men and women assigned to the Army’s Troop Support Command Headquarters in St Louis. The year was 1973, and faculty members from the main campus commuted to St. Louis to teach the classes.
Today, 18 Columbia College campuses are located on military installations, including the only institution providing in-seat classes at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The college annually serves more than 6,000 military service members, more than 1,800 veterans and nearly 1,100 military family members.
In addition to its annual Military Recognition Ceremony, Columbia College holds Veterans Day events to honor the men and women who’ve served the United States. The school hosted several activities during the week leading up to the Nov. 11 holiday, beginning with the decoration of Bass Commons on Main Campus. Dozens of American flags were placed at 12-inch intervals around the lawn, and yellow ribbons were tied in bows around tree trunks.
Throughout the week, students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends stopped by Dorsey Connector to write notes to local veterans; the cards were distributed at the VA Hospital and veterans’ homes. Many people also sent Columbia College- and Veterans Day-themed e-cards, thanking veterans for their service.
Meanwhile, Columbia College faculty and staff in Columbia and beyond were encouraged to participate in a 30-minute interactive training course designed to help them better understand the needs of student veterans. As of Nov. 9, 70 percent of faculty and staff had completed the “Give Me 30” initiative, which allows participants to role-play and respond to certain veteran-specific situations.
Many nationwide campuses also honored soldiers and veterans throughout the week. Columbia College of Missouri-Hancock Field donated cell phones to troops deployed overseas, ensuring that troops stationed abroad have a way to call home. The Syracuse, NY, based college, in conjunction with the nonprofit Cell Phones for Soldiers secured more than 250 cell phones. For every donated phone, Cell Phones for Soldiers provides two and a half hours of free talk time to deployed troops.
Back on Main Campus, a flag-raising ceremony was held on Friday, Nov. 9. The event took place in Bass Commons at 7:45 a.m., and later that day, a Roll Call Remembrance Ceremony was held in the Atkins-Holman Student Commons. Veterans and current service members read names of those killed in combat during the past year.
The Veterans Day celebrations culminated on Sunday, Nov. 11, with the inaugural Military Service Tree Lighting ceremony on Main Campus. “Today’s ceremony is the culmination of eight days of activities at Columbia College to honor and remember our staff, faculty, veterans and alumni that have served, or are currently serving, in our United States Armed Services,” Tery Donelson said in his opening remarks. Donelson, the Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management, is a 26-year year veteran of the United States Air Force.
The purpose of the ceremony was to dedicate an evergreen to all those in the Columbia College community who have contributed to the security of our nation through military service as a service member, spouse or dependent. “The idea of the tree is simple, to provide visible and recognizable evidence to the entire community of our pride and honor to be associated with this patriotic group of men and women,” Donelson said. “This tree will be lit today and display our country’s colors of red, white and blue; and will remain lit each evening until November 30.” At that time, another Columbia College tradition, the holiday lighting ceremony, will occur and represent the integration of Columbia College veterans and military service members into the college community.