Pacific University honored its current and past military service members during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Forest Grove Campus on Wednesday that included the unveiling of an online Wall of Honor that aims to recognize all of the university's students, alumni and employees who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
Nearly 100 community members comprised of university students, faculty, staff and alumni and local Forest Grove residents came together to recognize the commitment and sacrifices of all current and past service men and women.
Several veterans were among those in attendance, including current Pacific students Tom Ahlberg ’17, an 18-year Naval servicemen now majoring in criminal justice, law and society; and Irisa Grimes ’17, an eight-year Marine corporal who served in Iraq multiple times and is currently majoring in public health at the university.
“Thanks to each and every one among us here who have shown their commitment to our country by serving in the armed forces,” said Pacific University vice president for university advancement Cassie Warman. “We’re honored not only to show our appreciation today, but to come together as a family and a community of support.”
Like many in attendance, Veterans Day holds a special place in Warman’s heart, with several family members having served, including her father in both World War II and Korea, and her nephew, an Army captain currently stationed in Afghanistan.
“In Pacific University’s 166-year history, countless members of our community have served and are serving in the armed forces,” she said. “Some have interrupted their studies during times of war. Others have come us to start new careers after their military service ends or while it still happens; and still others have taken the knowledge and skills they learned at Pacific out into the world to help others through military careers.”
The Wall of Honor is intended to recognize all Pacific community members who have served, including those whose sacrifice has gone unnoticed..
“How we as a society, and here how we at Pacific, have honored and supported these individuals has varied over time,” Warman said. While noting a monument on the Forest Grove Campus that honors 31 students who lost their lives while serving in World War II, Warman emphasized the need to recognize the importance of all who have served.
“Too many of our later veterans, especially those of the Vietnam era, may have gone unseen or perhaps unheard,” she said. “So today, as more and more students, alumni, employees, family members have come to Pacific having served or are serving their country, we strive to honor all veterans, all active duty members and all family members, not just today but every day. The virtual Wall of Honor is a very small gesture in which we hope to list online every student, alumnus and employee who has served or is serving as a tribute and a reminder of the commitment they have made or are making.”
The wall, located at pacificu.edu/wallofhonor, is an ongoing work in progress, and Warman invited anyone who knows of someone who should be added to contact the university at 503-352-6151.
Four of Pacific’s veterans were posthumously recognized during the ceremony, including Paul Ostrander ’46, Pat L. Woods ’64, Bill Forst ’67 and Thomas Neal OD ’94. Ostrander flew in some of World War II’s most dangerous combat missions over Europe and was shot down weeks before the war ended there. Woods was killed in action in Vietnam, Forst advocated for fellow veterans following service in Vietnam, and Neal became an Army Captain and later chief optometrist at bases in Korea, Virginia and West Point Military Academy.
“Remembering these members of our Pacific family and many other stories is only a small part of what we can do today and every day together,” Warman said. “But Pacific is a place where we are dedicated to learning, and we can learn from each other, and by talking and listening and sharing what we’re doing today, we can become a more understanding and hopefully more supportive place for all of us. One where every voice and every person is truly valued and supported. That is truly the Pacific way.”
Ahlberg and Grimes joined Pacific senior director of alumni and community engagement Martha Calus-McLain in reading passages from the award-winning book Flashes of War written by Pacific alumna Katey Schultz MFA '08. Schultz received the 2013 Best Literary Fiction Award from the Military Writers Society of America for her fictionalized accounts of conversations with people whose lives were touched by the War on Terror. The book is now required reading by all freshmen cadets at the US Air Force Academy. Passages read included “While the Rest of America is at the Mall,” “Amputee,” and “Just the Dog and Me.”
University chaplain Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie followed by leading a prayer for veterans' welfare and peace. Excerpts included, “Creator God, we pause this day to offer our thanksgiving for all those veterans who have served this nation with honor in both peacetime and in war. Help us to be a nation that better recognizes the contributions of our veterans. Let us pledge ourselves to the cause of peace. We pray of a time when young men and women do not have to be sent into combat. Our veterans are a gift to be treasured. Let their service be remembered for all-time.”
Grimes led a singing of the national anthem to conclude the ceremony.
To learn more about Pacific University’s commitment to supporting military veterans, visit pacificu.edu/veterans.