The nationwide Veterans Day celebrations were brought closer to home for students with a ceremony under the Tower and commemorative displays on campus Thursday.
Graduate student Nick Hawkins has a different relationship with Veterans Day than other students walking around campus. Unlike most of the student population, Hawkins spent the five years after his high school graduation in the military, experiencing “life abroad” on a yearlong tour of Iraq.
“Coming to UT after my time in the military was a tough transition,” Hawkins said. “Everyone is obviously younger, and the college atmosphere is completely different than the military life I had been a part of for five years.”
Hawkins is now the president of the Student Veterans Association, a social club that provides a place for veterans to go for support and camaraderie with other veterans on campus.
The association, which started in 2006, has approximately 138 members and has worked with the University to help support student veterans with GI Bill issues. The group also plans to create a student veterans center on campus.
Hawkins said recent changes in the GI Bill have allowed more veterans to come out of the military and go to college, which is why more flags were present to symbolize veterans in the association’s display on the South Mall.
Thursday marked the 57th year of Veterans Day, which originally started as “Armistice Day” to celebrate the end of World War I in 1918.
The UT campus honors Veterans Day every year when the UT Army, Naval and Air Force ROTC departments come together for a joint retreat ceremony by the Tower, which is a simple ceremony designed to honor the flag and veterans.
“It really represents a joint effort of the military forces, for all veterans in all branches,” said army recruiter Weston Payne, a UT graduate.
Veterans Day celebrations also extended beyond campus, with a downtown parade sponsored by the city of Austin and Travis County Veterans Services, featuring bands, military vehicles and various veterans’ groups. With the theme of “100 Years of Military Aviation,” this year’s parade showed a stronger turnout of both attendees and participants.
“Patriotism is really in right now,” said Austin resident Anne Linville, whose husband is a Vietnam veteran. “There seem to be a lot more people on the sidelines and a good variety of veterans from different wars and conflicts.”