Veteran’s Plaza and Medal of Honor Memorial Garden
By John Orberson, VP, SVA 227, Sullivan University
Out of the twilight of dreams comes the sparks of ideas. Small ideas grow and prosper with the creative genius of individuals like Dr. A.R. Sullivan, Chancellor, and Student Veterans of America Chapter 227 Past-President Brent Casey, the proud grandson of Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima. Brent had a vision and developed what has become a central place for students and veterans to contemplate the heroism of the past and memorialize those individuals who have gone above and beyond their duties during times of war. The Veterans Plaza and Medal of Honor Memorial Garden on Sullivan University’s main campus in Louisville has prospered and become the only such memorial in the United States. The multi-phase project will be completed this summer and will include walking paths and tables for students and veterans alike to gather to collect their thoughts, contemplate, and relax. When the project is completed there will be non-smoking access for students and faculty to make use of the Plaza and Memorial Garden. Phase One of the project included the creation and dedication of the Veterans Plaza and Medal of Honor Memorial Garden . This student veteran base was the prime focus of Brent Casey, the past president of Sullivan’s Student Veterans of America Chapter 227. That legacy has been passed to the current President, Robert Peterson, and Vice President, John Orberson, to follow the process and make the project one of the prime focuses of future SVA officers to assure that the memorial is always a central point of Sullivan University,
During the Veterans Day 2010 memorialization ,Sullivan University hosted the ribbon cutting ceremony and unveiling of the Medal of Honor memorial marker. Among the many dignitaries who attended were Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abrahamson, Congressman John Yarmouth, and three Medal of Honor recipients. Recipients Ernie West (KY) from the Korean War, Don Jenkins (KY) from the Viet Nam War, and Hershel (Woody Williams) (WV) from World War II, were honored during the Ceremony. A portrait of each was presented to the recipients and several speeches marked the event as a special day in honor of all veterans of wars to be remembered every time someone visits the Medal of Honor Memorial Garden. Members of the Patriot Guard were present to show their mutual respect , not only for the Medal of Honor recipients, but to also support all veterans throughout the day. Members of the Marine Corps League Honor Guard fired a rifle volley as part of the celebration. The Seneca High School JROTC Color Guard presented the colors and Medal of Honor flag and raised them to full mast on the recently updated flagpole in the middle of the plaza . Bagpipes were played courtesy of Marine Corps (retired) Joe Dodson , and Pastor Bob Russell, of Southeast Christian Church, delivered the opening prayer and benediction for the for the ceremony.
Prior to the ceremony, Medal of Honors recipients were treated to a first class meal, unlike military “chow,” in Winstons Restaurant which afforded them a place of respite to collect their thoughts and to renew their lifetime friendships with veterans of the past. Brigadier General Julius ”Bud” Berthold, representing the future Medal of Honor convention to be held in Louisville, Sept. 28-Oct. 2, 2011, delivered a powerful speech illustrating the sacrifices that our service members make in times of war, and announced the “kick-off” of the Medal of Honor Convention. Berthold, who is a central organizer of the 2011 MOH Convention, has pledged support to the Student Veterans of America to facilitate development of programs that are important to transitional veterans who have chosen to better themselves through education at Sullivan University. Students and faculty from the Sullivan’s Baking & Pastry Arts program programs provided a cake that was decorated with the logo of the Student Veterans of America, Chapter 227.
Dr. A.R. Sullivan, Chancellor, has taken the project to heart and has pledged that upon completion that the Medal of Honor Memorial Garden will be a showpiece of the university. Chancellor Sullivan and student veteran Brent Casey’s vision has come to reality. That vision has blossomed into a project that makes every veteran proud to be a part of Sullivan University along with showing the world that Sullivan University is certainly “Veteran Friendly” .