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Photography by David Ahntholz

Some 150 local veterans and supporters joined Vanguard University’s (VU) Director of Veteran Affairs Brent Theobald and the Vanguard Veteran Advisory Board to celebrate the dedication of the new “Veterans Courtyard of Honor.” While some universities have memorials in dedication to veterans, VU has created a unique courtyard supported by pillars with plaques representing the armed services as a place to gather in remembrance and honor.

Former Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and VU Board Member Admiral Vernon E. Clark, USN (Ret.) served as the keynote speaker. Admiral Clark, who retired in 2005 after completing the Navy’s second-longest tenure as CNO, spoke about his experience in leadership and addressed the difficulty facing veterans today as they transition from the military to civilian life. “This special courtyard serves as a symbol of our appreciation for those of you who have chosen to wear the ‘cloth of the nation,’” stated Admiral Clark. Following the keynote address was a moment of silence as “Taps” was played.

“Value Pillars” are positioned around the courtyard to honor the sacrifice and legacy of family, friends and comrades. Donors of each pillar chose a value and a quote or scripture verse and donated resources in honor of a loved one.  A ceremony unveiled the pillars which represented “Honor” – Kenneth E. Gail, USN; “Gratitude” – Clifford A. Taylor, USN; “Camaraderie” – Miriam E. Dotson; “Commitment” – Paul Oddo, USN;  “Justice” – Jack E. Dotson; “Truth” – Leonard L. Wheeland, and “Integrity” – Thomas W. Prince. The courtyard on campus holds extra sentimental meaning to VU President Dr. Carol Taylor who personally donated funds for a pillar in honor of her father, Clifford A. Taylor, who served in the Navy in WWII.

“The Veterans Courtyard of Honor stands as a beacon to say to our veterans, ‘welcome home. Thank you for your service. You are not alone. We pray for your peace and for the day when wars will be no more,’” stated President Taylor.

A very touching moment took place during the Service Melody as veterans stood to the melody from their branch of service. Other highlights of the ceremony included the Presentation of the Colors by USMC Color Guard Mag 39 and the national anthem sung by VU student Caitlin Barney ’13, the invocation by Chaplain Captain David Sarmiento, USAF.

The Challenge Coin Ceremony was another special moment in which VU honored each of their graduating veteran students by presenting them with a unique Vanguard University Challenge Coin. Dating back to WWI, challenge coins are traditionally carried by military members to display pride and recognition.  The event concluded with the unveiling of the pillars and benediction by Chaplain David Brooks, Costa Mesa PD, Ret, Police Captain and Vietnam Veteran.

Distinguished guests in the crowd also included Fred and Ruth Waugh, Jack Hammett, Edison Miller, Adele and David Oddo, Dixie and Ed Arnold, Tessy and Col. Ron Nipper, Jack Hammett, Col. Stewart Navarre, and Don Andrews.

The “Veterans Courtyard of Honor” is an enduring symbol of gratitude to honor the service of military personnel and veterans. The courtyard was created as part of VU’s commitment to honor the legacy of all veterans while preparing the next generation as they transition out of the military during this difficult economic time.  The courtyard will be used to host University events and receptions.  There are still naming opportunities with all proceeds going directly to Student Veteran Scholarships.