JACKSONVILLE — Stephanie Young wanted to see the world, but also do her duty.
In 1970 the Jacksonville woman joined the Women’s Army Corps, the now defunct women’s branch of the U.S. Army.
“I wanted to go to Europe, but I also wanted to serve my country,” Young said, wearing a T-shirt with “Women’s Army Corps” emblazoned across her chest.
Young was one of more than 100 veterans, students, faculty, community members and officials who attended the third annual Veterans Day Ceremony at Jacksonville State University Monday. Held at Pete Mathews Coliseum, the event featured guest speaker Col. Joel Warhurst, commander of Anniston Army Depot, a U.S. flag presentation by U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, and patriotic music played by the Marching Southerners and the JSU chamber winds ensemble. The event also included a short video of area veterans talking about what their service means to them.
To Harrell Johnson of Jacksonville, serving in the military meant making something of himself.
Johnson, who attended the ceremony, said he served in the Air Force from 1949 until 1978, when he retired.
“I grew up on the west side of town from here in Jacksonville … there was not much for me here … I finished high school after I went into the service,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of my service; it’s been good to me.”
Johnson said he appreciated that JSU organized the ceremony for veterans.
John Beehler, president of JSU, who spoke at the event, said the university wanted to do its part to support veterans.
“Their sacrifices have given us the opportunity to live in freedom,” Beehler said.
Beehler noted that the university last year opened the Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success. The center, paid for with a federal grant, offers student veterans support, from academics and mental health to recreation and financial advice.
“It’s a one-stop shop to support all of our military connected students,” Beehler said.
Warhurst said he wanted to thank the veterans there for their service and that the nation owed them a huge debt.
“They’ve not only fought our wars, but preserved the peace,” Warhurst said. “It takes a profound strength to wear this nation’s uniform … whether they serve two years or 20 years, they bring with them that unwavering strength.”