Dixie State University celebrated its veterans in the school and the community with an unveiling of a new memorial dedicated to veterans and their families Friday.
The 206 DSU students who are veterans were honored on Veterans Day with campus ceremony dedicating its new veterans memorial that now stands on the northeast corner of the Encampment Mall.
Bagpipes were played, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was sung, three shots were fired, and then hands saluted as the American flag was raised toward the sky.
“Veterans [Day] is just a day to reflect that freedom isn’t free,” said Anthony Cirrito, president of DSU Veterans Club, Army veteran and a senior communication major from Niagara Falls, New York. “Someone vetted their life so that I could have the freedom that we have here.”
Maj. Justin Smith said at the ceremony he often questioned if he deserves the right and the privilege of being called a veteran when he has seen so many people make the ultimate sacrifice of losing their lives.
“The men and women who serve in our armed forces are a special breed of people,” Smith said. “This does not mean that any of us are less deserving of admiration and acolytes. We all struggle with the thoughts of those friends and comrades that we have lost.”
Smith said he is reminded of a quote from Gen. George Smith Patton Jr. who said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
Cirrito said the inspiration for the memorial came from two of his experiences. Cirrito said the first experience was when he was enrolled at DSU for two years before he even knew there was a veteran organization on campus. The second was when he wasn’t able to see the flag at half-mast after the terrorist attack in Paris.
“[The project] was like planting a seed and watching it grow until it produced fruit, and then I got a chance to taste it,” Cirrito said.
The project took eight weeks and nearly 500 man hours to erect the three flags poles and the engraved monument dedicated to veterans and their families, said DSU veterans coordinator Steven Roberts. He said the memorial was donated with the help of 39 donors who provided cash donations, materials and man labor totaling the donations to a price of $49,195.
Bert Nickson, an Army veteran from St. George, said he was drafted into the Army and really didn’t want to go, but said he was later grateful for the opportunity.
“This memorial means a lot because the country has gotten away from supporting the veterans and sometimes even looking down upon them and mistreated them terribly, ” Nickson said.
Vince Neighbor, the vice president of the veterans club, a navy veteran, and a sophomore nursing major from St. George, said another big part of the memorial is to bring awareness that there are veterans on campus.
“We just want [veterans] to know they are welcome here, we have veterans here and we are here to support them,” Neighbor said.
Cirrito said the veteran community is still very dispersed at DSU and they are continuing to rebuild it. He said they have this memorial now to bring awareness to a veterans center in Hazy School of Business room 135.
Veterans have a hard time transitioning back to civilian life, and college helps gives them a daily purpose again and something for them to work toward, Cirrito said. Veterans can take those skills and education they gained at college to find a place in the world, he said.
“[Veterans] are doers; they can’t just sit around,” Cirrito said.