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Nov. 17, 2011 Volume 33, No. 13

MU honors veterans, past and present


Purple Heart Medal recipient speaks at Veterans Day ceremony

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Mizzou’s joint ROTC cadets and midshipmen lead the annual Veterans Day parade from Francis Quadrangle to the Boone County Courthouse Friday morning, Nov. 11. From left are Army cadets Clark Maynard, Tim Hagerty and Brian Trump; Navy midshipmen Eric Mitchell and Brian Lasley; Air Force cadet Jessica Ellis and Navy midshipman Christopher Rice.
Photo by Shane Epping

Several campus events commemorated Veterans Day 2011, including a parade, the rededication of the American War Mothers’ Memorial, a wreath laying ceremony under Memorial Tower and the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s new Purple Heart forever stamp.

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Three-time Purple Heart Medal recipient Alex Waigandt, associate professor in the College of Education, spoke at the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s Purple Heart forever stamp in Memorial Union’s Stotler Lounge.  Photo by Rachel Coward

Faculty member and Purple Heart Medal recipient Alex Waigandt spoke at the stamp ceremony Nov. 11 in Memorial Union’s Stotler Lounge. Waigandt, associate professor in the College of Education, served in the Marines during the Vietnam War and was awarded three Purple Hearts during his tour of duty.

The Purple Heart Medal dates back to Revolutionary War, when then-Gen. George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit for three sergeants who helped capture accomplices to the infamous traitor, Benedict Arnold.

“Since those dark and uncertain days of the infancy of our nation, there have been 1,910,162 medals awarded,” Waigandt said. “There will be more. There will always be those lurking in the shadows who will assume to take our rights. There will also be those who will also give everything to preserve them.”

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MU Chancellor Brady J. Deaton speaks at the American War Mothers’ Memorial rededication ceremony on the east side of Memorial Union. The original memorial was dedicated Oct. 25, 1930, to the 117 University of Missouri students who died in World War I. The stone and a row of trees, originally located on Rollins Street, were removed in 1987 to widen the street. Rededication ceremony speakers, seated, included Gary L. Ward, MU associate vice chancellor for facilities, and Nelda Bleckler, outgoing national president of the American War Mothers.  Photo by Rachel Coward

The Badge of Military Merit was not awarded again until 1932, when it was redesigned from a heart-shaped piece of purple cloth to the Purple Heart Medal of today. The first recipient was Gen. Douglas McArthur, and World War I veterans received the award retroactively.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the medal would be issued to all branches of military service not on recommendation but for wounds or death in service.

Waigandt spoke of the men and women he knew who died defending the U.S.

“Sometimes, late at night, when the world is at rest, I can see the faces of some of my friends … friends forever young, never having had the opportunity to grow old,” Waigandt said. “The Purple Heart is symbol of their dedication, loyalty and sacrifice.”

— Trevor Eischen

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Mizzou’s joint ROTC cadets and midshipmen stand guard of the wreath at the Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony to honor veterans under the Memorial Union tower. When the tower was completed in 1926, the names of MU students who lost their lives in World War I were inscribed on the inside walls of the archway for future generations to pay their respects. Passersby tipped their hats while walking through the tower, ROTC students saluted when they passed and graduating seniors placed a memorial wreath at the tower during commencement. The wreath-laying ceremony was resurrected four years ago and moved to Veterans Day. Photo by Rachel Coward