Military Gala honors veterans

Celebrate — The Military Appreciation Gala was an opportunity to thank those who serve the nation. Photo credit: Jaja Hsu

Military service members were honored at the military appreciation gala put on by the Concerned Women for America (CWA) at Liberty University this Veterans Day on Nov. 11, 2011.

The club level of Williams Stadium Tower accommodated over 300 guests, according to Amanda Haas, president of Liberty University’s chapter of the CWA. Patrons and military members were dressed in elaborate ball gowns, service uniforms and tuxes with ties. According to many guests of the event, the yellow rose décor and light classical music playing in the background, however, was slightly thrown off by the high school football game taking place down below.

The event, according to Haas, was primarily cosponsored by the Student Government Association (SGA) and cost $2,500 to put on. The SGA, Haas said, was able to drum up $2,600 to give to the CWA from Liberty University.

“We just want to take time to recognize the military,” Haas said.

Gala — Air Force cadets attended the event in full Mess Dress. Photo credit: Jaja Hsu

Dianna Baker, the coordinator for the military appreciation gala and member of the CWA, said she has been working on planning the evening since she first got back to Liberty University in the fall. Having no military experience herself, Baker said she was most inspired to involve herself with this event because of a combination of her hometown, Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed Sept. 11, and because of how she feels about the United States armed forces.

“As I’ve got to know service members here at Liberty, I’ve been really inspired by the sacrifices they’ve made,” Baker said.

Military personnel, according to several veterans, such as Joshua and Donald Penley and Keith Peterson, enjoyed the evening and the chance to dress up. Many of the past and current military members spoke about their experiences or reasons for joining the military before and after keynote speakers took the stage.

“I’m glad I did it. I don’t regret it, but I’m glad to be home now,” Donald said.

The evening consisted of a dessert and coffee buffet and several presentations from the military groups on Liberty University’s campus, as well as veterans from the armed services.

Stephen Parke, the associate dean for the Helms School of Government and an associate professor of criminal justice at Liberty University, was one of the presenters. Parke served 21 years with the United States army, according to his speech, where he was a staff sergeant for the joint task services. Parke spoke on what it is like to be out of the military and then read a letter from a current soldier deployed overseas.

“Old soldiers, when they get together, they usually start off with, ‘there I was…’ Whenever you hear folks say ‘and there I was,’ seek high ground, because it’s gonna get really deep, really quick,” Parke said.

According to several attendees of the evening, the most touching moment of the night was when Parke read a letter from Sgt. Larry Provost, Liberty University’s director of commuter affairs, who is currently on his third deployment serving in Afghanistan.

“If the people back home do not support the war, then the war will be lost and the enemy knows that. And then our children will have to return to the same land, 20 years later,” Provost wrote.

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