Over 100 people turned out Friday evening at the University of the Cumberlands for a ceremony to honor local veterans and first responders.
The University of the Cumberlands’ English honor society, Sigma Tau Delta, organized the ceremony entitled “1,000 Lights, 1 Purpose: A Glowing Tribute to Those Who Serve,” which took place at the university’s Patriot Park.
“The theme for tonight’s program, ‘1000 Lights, 1 Purpose’ is intended as a reverent gesture of appreciation for our military men and women and first responders, those who have willingly risked their lives to protect our freedoms and ensure our safety,” said Dr. Cristy Hall, faculty adviser for Sigma Tau Delta, told the crowd Friday.
“We also felt it was a fitting title since in 1990 upon visiting our campus, President George H.W. Bush recognized our university as one of his 1,000 points of light for our zealous commitment to public service.”
Hall said that event was a community-wide thank you to those, who have served or are serving.
Prior to the event, organizers collected photographs featuring men and women, who served in the military or as first responders.
A group of elementary school students from Turkey Creek Middle School decorated luminary bags and placed pictures on many of them. The bags were placed around Patriot Park with lights inside that glowed throughout the ceremony.
The University of the Cumberlands Women’s Basketball Team placed small America flags along the lawn of the nearby Hutton School of Business Friday.
Outside the Hutton building stands a 9-11 memorial in the form of a steel beam that came from one of the fallen World Trade Center towers at Ground Zero, which was donated by Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley.
Music for the ceremony was provided by the University’s Chorale, and by soloist A.J. Hawkins, who is a music major at East Tennessee State.
“He has close family, who are Cumberlands graduates, so he has ties to this area. He is also a member of the U.S. Army Reserves,” Hall said.
During the ceremony, Sigma Tau Delta members presented USA Cares, a non-profit organization in Radcliff that provides emergency financial assistance to veterans and active military families post 9-11, with a $2,400 donation.
In addition to supplying funds for basic living expenses, USA Cares most vital and costly role is providing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment for veterans.
“It is estimated that at least one-third of the veterans, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, now suffer from PTSD and those are the documented cases. A great many more are silently suffering,” Hall noted.
The Whitley County High School JROTC presented the colors for Friday’s ceremony.