HOUSTON — Heartfelt expressions of gratitude marked the two-hour Veteran’s Day event at University of Houston-Clear Lake Nov. 11. Clear blue skies above dozens of American flags set the stage as people of all ages gathered at the university’s Liberty Park to show their respects and hear tributes to those who serve and the families who help make that service possible.
In attendance were uniformed men and women of all ages and representing every branch of the U.S. military. The Pledge of Allegiance led by Ross S. Sterling’s High School Jr. Marine ROTC was followed by an Apache helicopter flyover by the Texas Army National Guard. The ringing of the Veterans Bell and moments of silence punctuated speeches and music, which included the National Anthem, the Navy Hymn and “Amazing Grace” by bagpiper Stanley Fontenot.
Seated beside the newly dedicated Liberty Park Gazebo designed to honor veterans and draped with red, white and blue banners, the audience heard remarks from Army veteran and University of Houston-Clear Lake President William A. Staples, Associate Vice President for University Advancement Dion McInnis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Steve Waldner and keynote speaker Walter Cunningham, an astronaut and retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
Cunningham’s address, titled “The Call to Serve: A Veteran’s Perspective,” praised the dedication of veterans past and present. “America was founded by risk-takers,” Cunningham said. “Freedom still demands that we be willing to sacrifice — freedom isn’t free.”
During the open forum, audience members took turns expressing their gratitude for family members and friends who served, or are currently serving. Among them UH-Clear Lake Office of the Provost Executive Assistant Joanne Laborde who thanked her brother-in-law, Oscar Cessac, for his service in the Army and the two years he spent in Vietnam.
“This is the first time, the only time, I’ve ever received thanks,” Cessac said afterward.
Several attendees stopped to personally thank Cessac and shake his hand as the event drew to a close. He said he plans to attend next year’s event.
Sponsored by the UH-Clear Lake’s Office of Alumni and Community Relations and supported by area businesses, organizations and volunteers, the event grows every year in attendance, speakers and exhibits.
An indoor display in the university’s Student Services and Classroom Building showcased photographs, artifacts and other treasured pieces of history donated by local families of veterans.
Richard Baker, retired U.S. Army chaplain, has attended the Veterans Day event at UH-Clear Lake every year since they began seven years ago with a small ceremony in front of the university’s Bayou Building.
Said Baker, “I think it’s just awesome that the university has a park for veterans and also a Veterans Day observance.”
For more information about Veterans Day, visit http://www.uhcl.edu/VeteransDay or call the Office of University Advancement, 281-283-2021.