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High Point University honors veterans

High Point University

HIGH POINT Nearly 1,100 veterans and community members gathered at High Point University for a celebration honoring the men and women who have served their country.

Veterans were welcomed to the James H. And Jesse E. Millis Athletic and Convocation Center with a red-carpet entrance to the cheers of student volunteers who lined both sides of the walkway.

High Point University President Nido Qubein and Col. J. Quincy Collins Jr., a Cold War veteran and Vietnam prisoner of war, were featured speakers. The observance included a complimentary breakfast and music.

As part of the ceremony, the university donated 100 American flags to local organizations, including public schools, government buildings, and parks and recreation facilities.

“One of our values at High Point University is patriotism,” said Qubein. “We tell our students and all of our employees that this is one of our values. You don’t have to love everything your country does to be a patriot. In fact, one might argue that a patriot is someone who commits himself or herself every day to making this country better.

“It is not a question of perfection,” he continued. “This is not our aim. Excellence is our aim on this campus. Excellence is our aim as Americans.”

Collins, a native of Concord, had an illustrious Air Force career, from opening the new Air Force Academy in 1955 as an air training officer, serving as aide to the four-star commander-in-chief of the U.S. Air Force in Europe, and being shot down by opposition and spending more than seven in prison cells in and around Hanoi.

“Today I want us to transgress from this magnificent occasion here at this university and go back in time to another era, another crisis, another opportunity,” said Collins. “Dec. 7, 1945, is a day that lives in infamy.

“America, do you remember? We could see the news reels in the theaters, showing the devastation of war in places we’d never heard of; Anzio, the Bulge, islands in the Pacific that sounded like fiction. And then, D-Day. The telegrams started coming. ‘We regret to inform you…’ The pain of war began to spread and become a part of life. Remember that? We must.

“America is beautiful — I heard the music this morning. How wonderful that is. Freedom is a large part of that beauty, but freedom is not free. There is a price that each generation must pay. Here, it is the axiom of our age. To be born in freedom is an accident. To live in freedom is a struggle. To die in freedom is an obligation. Our World War II citizens met that obligation and we have survived and flourished.”

Karen Jacobsen, global artist in residence at High Point University, performed an arrangement of “America, the Beautiful” with the university Chamber Singers. Jacobsen is internationally recognized for her voiceover work and musical performances. Known as “GPS Girl,” her voice has been featured in text-to-speech systems in more than 400 million GPS and smartphone devices worldwide, including the female Australian voice of the original Siri application featured on Apple iPhones, iPods and iPads.

The North Carolina Brass Band also performed, including the Armed Forces Salute, during which each military branch stood for the playing of their service song.

Jim Burke and his wife, Sharon, moved to High Point six months ago and attended the celebration for the first time.

“I was amazed at the welcome we received by the young people,” said Burke, a Vietnam and Korean War veteran who served from 1963 to 1986 and retired from the Pentagon. “You see things on other college campuses that make you sad. Then, you see this. It brought tears to my eyes when we got here and the sidewalk was lined with all those student volunteers. It’s great to know that this university is welcoming and truly understands what America is all about.”

Alex Pinto, a High Point University senior, took part in the celebration. She was drawn to volunteer because of her personal connection to Veterans Day.

“My grandfather was a Korean War veteran and served in the Navy,” she said. “The thing I look forward to the most with this event is just getting to talk with the veterans. Being here and giving a little something back to them after what they’ve done for our country, it’s an honor.”

Three groups of university students, each of which has dedicated their efforts and raised thousands of dollars for veterans, were recognized. They included representatives of two student-run organizations, The Bed Brigade and United Apparel, and a member of Kappa Alpha, a fraternity that raised $26,000 for the Independence Fund to purchase a track chair for a wounded veteran in the spring.

As a surprise at the conclusion of the observance, every veteran received a blanket that was presented by one of the hundreds of student volunteers. The blanket symbolizes the warmth and comfort veterans have brought to the lives of others.

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