Today, High Point University honored hundreds of men and women who served the nation during its annual Veterans Day Celebration. The event was held in the James H. and Jesse E. Millis Athletic and Convocation Center on campus and included a complimentary breakfast, a patriotic salute and recognized students leading initiatives to support veterans. Keeping with its yearly tradition, the university also pledged 100 American flags to local nonprofits, schools and government buildings.
Col. Leon “Lee” Ellis, U.S. Air Force veteran and prisoner of war, who served 25 years and flew 68 combat missions with a majority over North Vietnam, served as keynote speaker at this year’s celebration. Ellis spoke on his experience as a prisoner of war and the values he took away from that.
“There are going to be times when you feel out of control,” said Ellis. “Those are the times when you look up. We must stay steadfast in our faith. Life is going to knock you down, but pick yourself up by believing in yourself and staying connected in community.”
Additionally, event attendees heard from HPU President Nido Qubein.
“Thanks to these veterans who have given their lives, their time and their service to make this country what it is,” said Qubein. “High Point University is a God, family and country school, and we shout it from the mountaintops.”
The event marked the university’s Ninth Annual Veterans Day Celebration and welcomed over 1,200 veterans and their families. Veterans in attendance had the opportunity to meet and take photos with Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA 2019 and Miss North Carolina, along with Clark, the bald eagle.
“I came to tears,” said High Point resident Wayne Swanson, a Vietnam War veteran, about today’s event. “What we went through, no one can really imagine. We need young people like these to keep our world going.”
“I appreciate HPU for doing this for all of us,” said Charles Walton, U.S. Army veteran and High Point resident. “It’s a very nice event, and I want to show my appreciation by coming back. The recognition of sacrifice everyone has made for their country – it makes it worthwhile knowing that someone still appreciates it.”
As a special surprise, Clark, the bald eagle, flew over the crowd during the HPU Chamber Singers performance of “America the Beautiful.”
“It was such a wonderful experience to see that eagle fly over people’s heads,” said U.S. Army veteran and Greensboro native Herman Gant. “It made me feel so thankful. I don’t get out much, and to see this and enjoy it with people I love and be around people who are so nice and willing to help, I really appreciated it.”
Matthew Sayger, 1st Lt. Executive Officer in the U.S. Army and HPU Class of 2017 alumni, delivered the invocation and expressed his appreciation for HPU’s Veterans Day Celebration, which he has attended several times since first volunteering at the event as a sophomore.
“These are touching moments,” says Sayger. “We always see the imagery and symbolism of America at HPU, and to see the veterans here, it really brings it to full perspective of how amazing this country is and the people who have served it. To see HPU step up to the plate and give veterans their moment in the spotlight makes them feel so appreciated.’”
At HPU, students are actively engaged to make a difference in the lives of veterans. Each year during the event, students present a blanket to veterans in attendance.
“You don’t get this opportunity at a lot of universities,” said Murphy DiRosa, an HPU senior and student volunteer, who has volunteered during the event the past three years. “Seeing the veterans faces light up when we present them with a blanket is truly remarkable, and I’m thankful to HPU for giving me this outlet to express my appreciation.”
HPU’s celebration of veterans, which has grown significantly over the years, is supported by Ilderton Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, Scott A. Tilley, CFA, BB&T, Scott and Stringfellow, River Landing at Sandy Ridge, and the Sheriff Family Veterans Awareness Endowment.
After the celebration, the brothers of Kappa Alpha Order at High Point University, in partnership with The Independence Fund, a national nonprofit assisting wounded veterans, teamed up to change the life of a U.S. veteran.
In the last five years, HPU’s Kappa Alpha Order has raised over $50,000, which funded the purchase of a track chair for a wounded veteran in 2016 and 2017. Having raised $16,000 this year, the group purchased and presented a track chair to U.S. army veteran Steve Slate.
“Being able to see Steve here in the chair with his family and know that he got a renewed chance on life is amazing,” said Holden Quinn, junior at HPU and member of Kappa Alpha Order. “We must do all that we can to support those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.”
Specialist Steve Slate joined the U.S. Army in 1984 and was a member of the Seventh Army, 94h MP Battalion, 285th MP Company in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. While serving, he was diagnosed with a form of ALS, called PLS, and medically retired in 1987. He is a native of and currently resides in High Point, North Carolina, with his wife Bettina. This special all-terrain, tracked wheelchair allows wounded veterans, like Slate, to regain mobility and independence.
Contact: Katie Hamlin