Samford University held its second annual Veterans Day Celebration at Sherman Circle on Friday Nov. 10, to honor veterans in the Samford and Birmingham community.
Dr. Dieter Waldvogel, associate professor of Spanish and Latin American culture and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.
Dr. David Luginbuhl, associate professor and director of computer science, was a program manager at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and worked in the Air Force Research Laboratory. He gave an address at the event.
“For those of us who have served in the military, we can contemplate the integration of our faith and our military service,” Luginbuhl said. “Those of us who follow Christ and who also served and are serving in the military find ourselves living out this truth in two ways, if you will; it should be for us two sides of the same coin— living without shame, living a sacrificial life in service to others.”
The Cathedral Brass of Birmingham played several pieces including a medley of the six service songs which correspond to the branches of the US military, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Taps.”
Dr. Kristin Kenning, professor of music and director of Samford opera, whose father and grandfathers served in the military, sang “America the Beautiful,” followed by a minute of silence.
Samford Public Safety Chief Officer Tommy Taylor, who’s a US Army veteran, expressed Samford’s second annual Veterans Day Celebration as an opportunity to honor.
“Just honoring America’s veterans, including myself, it just means so much to us, because there are those of us who have served for many years and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and we remember those folks today,” Taylor said. “It’s just a tremendous impact, and it means so much to the institution as a whole, to reflect on that and to know that there are people who are still putting their lives on the line today as we speak while we’re having this ceremony; there are still those walking the point, and it’s good to remember [them].”
Stefana Dan Laing, associate professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School, her husband John D. Laing, who is the head chaplain for the Army National Guard in Texas, expressed his appreciation of Samford hosting the event in honor of veterans in the community.
“I think it’s just nice to see that my wife’s employer, actually, takes the time out to honor those who’ve served, both in their faculty but also in the broader community; it means a lot,” said Laing.
He recalls how his perspectives changed over the course of his time in the military.
“For me, being in the reserve forces, I often looked at it as something like a little side job, you know, something I did,” Laing said. “It was a ministry, yes, but only a couple days a month, or two weeks in a year, and my perspective has changed a lot on it over the years, and so now I see it as a real, larger ministry than I had originally thought.”
Laing expressed getting to share the gospel with service personal “when they think they might die, or they might be literally dying.”
“[I was] able to tell their families at a funeral or when they’re receiving the remains, you know, ‘I was able to share the gospel with your son or daughter,’ and give them some assurance and peace knowing that their loved one is in heaven,” shared Laing. “So, it’s a great ministry; it’s been an honor to serve.”
Michael Morgan, chief of staff and assistant to the president, was a part of the Veterans Day Celebration Planning Committee.
“In my view everyone who attends this event can be inspired with profound gratitude to individuals who step forward to serve our country,” said Morgan. “Even with the rain, the crowd was larger than last year, and I expect the tradition will only grow in the years ahead.”
Samford’s 2024 Veterans Day Celebration is set to take place Monday, November 11th at 11 a.m.
“The date and time are set by tradition marking the armistice officially ending World War I on the ‘eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour.’” Morgan said. “We have plans for the university to continue the tradition of hosting a presidential luncheon for veterans and their families following the ceremony.”