SIU commemorates veterans

By Austin Miller

The final active duty serviceman to be drafted has retired from the Army after 42 years of service.

The retirement of Ralph Rigby, who was drafted at age 19, means the U.S. military is now comprised entirely of volunteers.

During SIU’s annual Veterans Day ceremony held in Shryock Auditorium, Craig Hansen, commander of air force ROTC detachment 205, said the distinction makes this Veterans Day different from recent years.

Advertisement

Hansen said veterans make up 8 percent of the current U.S. population, but this will be reduced to 4 percent in the next 30 years, because only 1 percent is serving.

“Now that we have an all-volunteer force, the general public’s exposure to veterans and those who have served is decreasing,” Hansen said. “This day serves as an opportunity for the U.S. population to express their gratitude for those who have decided, voluntarily, to undertake military service in defense of the nation.”

Hansen, who graduated from SIU in 1992, said this dwindling direct contact with soldiers changes how the general public views the military and creates a divide between the two sides. The consequences of which would be mutual misunderstanding, and possibly a mistrust of the military.

“It used to be, ‘my dad served, my brother served, my son served, my mom served,’ and now we’re in the, ‘I know a guy I went to school with who served,’ or ‘my cousin served.’ We’re headed on a way to ‘some guy that knew a guy that I was in high school with joined the Army,’” he said. “As those opportunities are diminished, we need to guard against the lionization of this warrior class.”

As part of the university’s commemoration of Veterans Day, more than 100 Air Force and Army ROTC cadets held a vigil in front of the Old Main Flagpole near Shryock during the 24 hours prior to the ceremony.

Justin Linder, cadet wing commander, marched and instructed cadets to their position during a two-hour shift on Monday, and returned at 5 a.m. Tuesday to oversee the operation.

Linder, a senior from Springfield studying aviation management, said a marine stopped his motorcycle to personally thank and salute him during his march.

Advertisement

“I’ve never had someone show me that much respect, towards Veterans Day,” Linder said. “It’s an eye-opening experience for what’s going to come in my future.”

Even though he is not officially in the service, Linder said being a member of ROTC has an added bonus during the holiday.

“I see what it means to so many people in the community,” he said. “Now, it’s more than just a day off of school. It’s a thank-you to all those veterans who’ve come before me, so I could fill in their shoes.”

Some of the veterans who came before Linder at Tuesday’s event are also SIU employees and alumni.

Steven Hutchins, an accountant with the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at SIU after moving to Carbondale. He served six years at Grissom Air Force Base in Indiana and the Missouri Air National Guard.

Keith McQuarrie, retired chief academic adviser for the college, has lived in Carbondale since he first attended the university in 1964. However, from 1969 he was drafted by the Army to serve in West Germany and returned home in 1971.

McQuarrie said he is glad the university has continued to host this service, which he has attended for more than 15 years.

“We honor and appreciate those who have gone before us and we just like to see that that tradition continues, and that the people learn from and respect the sacrifices made by the veterans and the veterans’ families,” he said.

Steven Linke, of Carbondale, spent 22 years in the Army. He was deployed to both Korea and Germany before retiring in 1997.

Linke said the families of veterans are often ignored when it comes to paying respect during the holiday.

“My son called me today to say ‘Happy Veterans Day,’ and I said ‘You were put through the hell just as much as I was,’” he said. “I told him ‘You served a majority of those 22 years with me. This is a credit to you as well.’”

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AMiller_DE

Advertisement